Syrian women are the group most discriminated against among refugees in Turkey, and they also are victims of sexual and physical violence, the Yeni Yaşam news website reported, citing the Diyarbakır Bar Association.
The bar association said more than half the refugees who applied to them for legal advice were women and that most of them sought assistance in instances of kidnap, rape, harassment, physical violence and divorce.
According to the Diyarbakır Bar, most women did not go to the police or file complaints either because they did not trust state institutions or they did not feel protected by them. Language barriers were also a factor, as most Syrian women could not speak Turkish to express themselves. The bar added that the women were also afraid of being deported, which is why they remained silent.
One 20-year-old Syrian refugee, identified by the initials E.H., said she did not tell anyone she was from Syria and instead told them she came from southeastern Mardin province, where there is a sizeable Arab population. “They [Turkish men] look at Syrian women differently,” she said. “They immediately think we will have a relationship with them, so I just tell them I am from Mardin.”
She said Syrian women feared harassment and did not want to work. Fatma Gündoğdu from the LOTUS Space for Youngsters Association (LOTUS Genç Alan Derneği) said there was a significant amount of social prejudice against Syrian women, encouraging men to act on it.
“Syrian women are constantly othered,” she said. “There are a lot of sexist stereotypes projected on them, and the most common one is that they are open to all kinds of relationships. This puts them in a lot of danger.”
Syrian refugee E.B. had filed a harassment complaint against her husband’s employer, E.N. The Diyarbakır Bar published a statement on their Twitter account on December 22 saying that E.B. did not know Turkish and that a translator was not present during her statement to the police. An official investigation was not conducted, and no evidence was collected, as a result of which the case was dropped by the prosecutor’s office.
The bar association said this was unacceptable and that they would do everything in their power to aid the victim.
Some Syrian women said they were discriminated against in the labor market. One woman identified as M.A., who worked as a cleaning lady, said her employers “tested” her. She said they would place valuable objects around the house and watch her to see if she stole them.
M.A. said that in the end she was fed up and resigned, telling her employers that she was not a thief. She added that she was tired of Syrian women being associated with prostitution and robbery.
E.H. said she was always confronted with uncomfortable questions by people so she always stayed at home to avoid the negative attention.
According to Turkey’s Refugees Association, there were 3,635,410 Syrian refugees in the country as of November 18. Syrians, who are frequently subjected to discrimination and used as cheap labor in Turkey, have been fleeing across the border since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.