AMMAN/MAFRAQ — As the world marks International Women’s Day on Friday, Syrian women who have taken refuge in Jordan “have nothing to celebrate”, according to one refugee.
“A day for women to celebrate? It is the furthest thing we could celebrate or think of as women who lost our homes,” said Um Majid, a resident of the Zaatari Refugee Camp near Mafraq, 80km northeast of Amman.
The 37-year-old arrived in the camp five months ago along with three children after she had lost her husband in the Syrian conflict.
Speaking to The Jordan Times while sewing a dress — which is what she does to earn a living — Um Majid recalled how her life changed following the almost two-year conflict, which pits Syrian regime forces against an armed opposition.
“I had my husband, children and a home. Now, I have to look after my children and work to sponsor them. We are living underneath a tent that would never give you the feeling of home,” said Um Majid, who comes from the southern city of Daraa.
The Syrian civil war has driven some 430,000 refugees into Jordan, the majority of whom are women and children, according to relief organisations.
Hana Ghadban, a counsellor at the Syrian Women Association, said the ongoing conflict has hit Syrian women the hardest.
“Syrian women have suffered a lot in the past two years. Our situation has worsened more than women in any other Arab country. Thousands of women have lost their husbands and children. Several have been subjected to abuse or fled simply because they feared sexual violence,” she said.
Onyango Makogango, programme specialist at UN Women, said that Syrian refugee women are hardest hit by the conflict.
“Syrian women’s suffering is double [that of men]. At first they were displaced from their country, just like the rest of the Syrian refugees, but then in the camp, discrimination against them as women adds to their burden,” he told The Jordan Times.
“We have so many female-headed households in the camp. Single women need further security during food and assistance distribution,” he noted.
Displacement has increased Syrian women’s and girls’ vulnerability to domestic violence, according to Makogango.
“The psychological stress caused by living conditions in the camp… [and] being confined to one location has increased domestic violence, which women and girls would not have experienced in Syria [under normal circumstances],” he said.
Um Majid dreams of going back to Syria.
When she watches the camp grow, however, she fears that her dream will not come true.
“When I see people building porches, opening shops, buying TVs, washing machines and getting married, I wonder if we will ever return to Syria. It looks like we are all meant to stay,” she lamented.