Refugee women in Turkey face violence, exploitation, abuse - report

Syrian refugee women in Turkey face violence, exploitation and marginalisation, according to OBC Transeuropa, a think-tank focused on South-East Europe.

"Refugee girls and women, who are more vulnerable to exploitation, are subjected to all forms of violence in their daily lives. On the other hand, services for Syrian refugees in Turkey are largely gender-blind, leaving many problems unsolved," a report by the think-tank said on Monday.

The official statistics by December 2018 show that there are more than Some 3.6 million Syrian refugees are registered in Turkey, according to official statistics. More than 45 percent are female, and half of these females are under the age of 18.

The think-tank cited a June 2018 United Nations report emphasising that Syrian refugee women are poorly informed about their rights to protection and legal support services, and nearly three out of four don’t know where to seek assistance related to violence or harassment.

“I can’t recall a single Syrian refugee woman I have met who didn’t report violence. Marital rape is also very common, but many Syrian women don’t even define these experiences as abuse. They don’t even know that marital rape is a crime that will be punished,” the think-tank's report quoted lawyer Gökçe Yazar, a member of the Şanlıurfa Bar Association Refugee Rights Commission.

OBC Transeuropa also pointed out child marriages and polygamous marriages as two major problems for Syrian refugee girls and women, according to the report. 

“How can women initiate divorce in a polygamous marriage? They can’t,” said Yazar, one of the lawyers training Syrian women about divorce. “Syrian women are fragile just like our women. Since Syrian women do not set a condition for legal marriage, you can live with them without marrying them.”

Another fundamental problem for Syrian refugee women in Turkey is forced prostitution. Some Syrian women often become sex workers after escaping domestic violence, according to the report.

“In Viransehir, Syrian women are forced into prostitution just to get some milk or diapers for their babies,” the report quoted Yazar as saying.

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