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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid