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

ASEAN Ministers Set to Push for South China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs