News / Middle East

Gender-Based Violence Increasing Among Syrian Families

Syrian refugee girl carries her sister, at camp in Ketermaya village, southeast of Beirut, March 14, 2013.
Syrian refugee girl carries her sister, at camp in Ketermaya village, southeast of Beirut, March 14, 2013.
For many Syrian women who have sought sanctuary in neighboring Lebanon from a civil war that has so far left an estimated 100,000 dead, their refuge is laden with new dangers. Even within their own families there is sometimes no safety.  
 
Syrian female refugees who fled to neighboring Lebanon to escape the dangers of the civil war in their own country say they are experiencing more strife within their families. They say jobless husbands frustrated by the stress and indignity of living as refugees lash out, beating wives and hitting their children.
 
They also report increasing sexual abuse from husbands and other male relatives.
 
Aid workers say it is hard to discover how widespread the domestic violence and abuse is. But they say more women are coming forward to seek help and advice on how to cope with violent husbands and abusive male relatives. That, they say, is significant. Arab cultures teach women to shy away from discussing such problems with strangers.
 
The Lebanese branch of the non-governmental organization Developmental Action Without Borders runs seven centers for women and children in Lebanon.  According to Qassem Saad all of them are seeing more Syrian women complaining of abuse. 
 
“We have discovered a lot of girls particularly they suffer from sexual abuse inside their houses," Saad explained, "particularly from their uncles or little brothers for example. But you know in this community, it is a Muslim community and the people, the Muslim people, they have their own problems. But they don’t want to see it. They don’t want to admit they have the problems.”
 
With Syrian refugee families often living in grossly overcrowded conditions, sharing shabby rented apartments or living in abandoned buildings or tents, frustration and anger are brimming over. And men, aid workers say, often express their rage by committing violence on their women.
 
Maryam, 31, mother-of-five who fled with her family from their home in a Damascus suburb, said her husband has changed towards her and the children since they arrived in Lebanon.  
 
She said her husband himself never used to hit any of the children. Now he will hit the children. He will scream at her. He will shout at her. These things they never had when living in Syria.
 
According to a social worker, Maryam has also been beaten by her husband, but this is something she did not want to admit to a male stranger.
 
The United Nations has registered more than 600,000 Syrians as refugees in Lebanon, but the Lebanese government estimates there are at least one million and are bracing for more. 
 
Many of the refugees are already suffering from stress disorders as a consequence of what they have endured in Syria, witnessing the violent deaths of relatives and friends and the loss of homes. 
 
“We are doing a lot of psychosexual work with them," explained Saad, adding that sexual abuse and domestic violence is adding to the woes of the women.  "We try to provide them by techniques how they can defend themselves and how to cope the situation that they are living inside their houses. In some cases we are in contact with the Lebanese security because sometimes you have to protect them, to protect them by law.”
 
The law can help only up to a point. Marital rape does not exist within the Lebanese legal code. 
 

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs