With the harsh and often dehumanizing rhetoric currently circulating around the Syrian refugee crisis, it becomes easy, and almost second nature, to entangle the oppressors from the oppressed. Unfortunately, the privileged are slowly becoming accustomed to turning a blind eye to the tragedies which do not directly affect them — a habit that must be stopped.
The recent immigration executive order enacted by President Donald Trump, coined by many as the Muslim ban, has reawakened some of the concern that humanity seems to be void of in this day and age. However, though many know of the gist of the turmoil within Syria’s borders right now, the specific injustices against the innocent people of Syria are rather unknown to the public as they lie in the shadow of the headline-dominating, vague narratives on the chaos within the country.
The women of Syria endure a silent struggle — underreported and misunderstood.
Under the strict, misinterpreted “Islamic” laws imposed by jihadist groups in Syria such as ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, women in Syria are forced to wear both the hijab and abaya. A woman’s failure to comply with these stringent codes results in the denial of her ability to attain an education, a job, and even her ability to move freely in public.
These restrictions not only severely limit women from advancing in society but also hinder them in their day-to-day lives. For instance, a Syrian refugee recounted the story of their deceased, widowed neighbor, who died after she was unable to flee her house with her three children despite the danger staying in her home posed to her because of her fear of the punishment she would face if she left her home unaccompanied by a male guardian.
In addition, some Syrian women’s failure to comply with the laws imposed upon them under these extremist groups, especially those regarding dress code, are subject to denial of their basic human rights. The radicalized groups within Syria reserve the right to prohibit women who fail to properly wear the hijab from buying basic necessities, such as food. This leaves women uneducated, unemployed, and starved simply for refusing to observing the hijab, forcing them into a system of oppression and subservience.
Due to this cycle of crippling dependency enforced by the radicalized regimes, the rate of child marriage in Syria doubled between 2011 and 2012. As the war progressed, women are increasingly unable to provide for themselves. Along with this, the death toll in Syria due to the war has reached a staggering 470,000, with the majority of deaths being men. This leaves many Syrian women as the new heads of their households, without the means to provide basic necessities to their families.
Additionally, the refugee crisis in Syria has reached to such an extent that 7.6 million people have been displaced from their homes internally. Since much of the war force is comprised of men, and men are more likely to be prevented from departing from conflict areas, the majority of displaced people become women. However, a woman’s problems do not end when she flees from her home. The journey to refugee camps include many treks through war-ridden areas, in which women can easily be subject to sexual assault as a right of passage. The refugee camps are also severely under-equipped, resulting in a dearth of reproductive health care available for women to access.
Unfortunately, this treatment of women is often accredited to the religion of Islam, instead of to the terrorist organizations actually responsible for this oppression, causing us to close our borders to those in need. For example, in the Quran, it is explicitly stated that “there shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion” (2:256). This verse alone should obliterate the idea that ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, and other similar jihadist organizations are accurate representations of the religion when in fact, they are manipulating innocent civilians such as those in Syria.
Along with this, in the Western world, many often demonize the country of Syria as a whole instead of the extremist groups that have taken it over. In fact, the official Syrian constitution grants equality between men and women and states that all people, regardless of gender, are entitled to “all the opportunities that enable them to participate fully and effectively in political, social, cultural, and economic life.” However, with the rise of civil war among Syrians, these ideals have been abandoned in the quest for power and control.
Understanding the specific social conditions in Syria is one step closer to truly being able to empathize with their pain, which can lead to allowing those privileged to open their hearts and borders to those who were born in less fortunate circumstances.
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