News / Middle East

Refugee Women Contend With Domestic Abuse, Sexual Exploitation

FILE - Shoppers walk along the main street of the Shatila Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Beirut.
FILE - Shoppers walk along the main street of the Shatila Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Beirut.
Palestinian women in Lebanon who are long-term refugees understand the problems faced by women who have fled the Syrian civil war - they share similar hardships and also contend with domestic abuse as well as sexual exploitation.
 
The dozen Palestinian refugee women at a focus group session arranged for VOA by a local NGO (non-government organization) could hardly contain themselves when asked about the specific challenges they face; they talked over each other, desperate to vent their frustrations. 
 
They said living in exile in camps amid rising insecurity and contending with economic hardship is bad enough, but there is also a heavy toll on their family lives with an increase in domestic abuse. All dozen women said they experienced beatings at the hands of their husbands.
 
A mother of two, Sameeha, said the pressures have an effect on the psychological wellbeing of all the family - parents and children alike. She said it is like a ticking bomb and explodes frequently. One woman admits that she can be as violent as her husband and takes it out on the children.
 
Zeinab, who has three kids, said her husband starts beating her and the children when he feels under pressure.
 
The hour-long session with the women took place at Ain el-Hilweh, a Palestinian refugee camp an hour south of Beirut.
 
More than 400,000 Palestinian refugees live in Lebanon, half of them in a dozen camps spread across the country. Never easy, camp life has become much harder since the civil war erupted in neighboring Syria.
 
The camp’s pre-Syrian civil war population of 80,000 has been swollen with the addition of 20,000 or more Syrian refugees, mostly ethnic Palestinians. That is straining the resources of the camp, which is made up for the most part of poorly-built two-story buildings on narrow streets. Rents and the price of food have jumped. Competition for jobs, mostly day laboring, has become fiercer and the Syrians are willing to work for lower wages. Meanwhile, the camp is experiencing increased violent rivalry between armed Palestinian and Islamist factions.
 
NGOs are struggling to assist the women in the camp. Cultural norms dictate against the airing of family problems and the women say their husbands will not agree to family counseling.
 
“He refused directly,” said one woman when asked about her husband’s thoughts on participation.
 
The Palestinians have sympathy for the newly arrived refugees from Syria, who they are aware are often more vulnerable. Many of the Syrian women are without husbands, who are either dead or chose to remain behind in Syria.
 
A Lebanese psychologist, who asked not to be named, said there is a high incidence of sexual abuse and exploitation by male relatives and neighbors among the Syrian refugees, who mostly live in a confined ”tent city” within Ain el-Hilweh.
 
The psychologist said mothers who come to her want to find ways of stopping the abuse of daughters; younger women do not know what to do and are afraid of disclosing to other relatives the abuse they are enduring.
 
The problems of domestic and sexual abuse among refugee communities in Lebanon are of mounting concern to international and local NGOs who are trying to develop strategies to help.

You May Like

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More