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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs