Tough days for Arab women facing war and displacement

Women in MENA region bear disproportionate share of burdens that come with incessant conflicts.

2017/03/12 Issue: 97 Page: 6

The Arab Weekly

Now that the ritualistic marking of International Women’s Day is past, it bears noting that millions do not get much of a mention on the date — March 8th — which was designated by the United Nations to celebrate and advocate for women’s rights around the world.

Women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region bear a disproportionate share of the burdens that come with incessant conflicts and inevitable displacement, along with the inveterate social consequences of belonging to the female gender.

Often not enough attention is paid to the plight of Arab women facing such crisis situations.

This is tragic but vastly less so than their lives. They belong to a region that is home to five active and protracted conflicts — Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and the Palestinian territories — and three of the worst humanitarian crises — Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Terrorism takes an enormous and bloody toll on their families — MENA women are more likely to lose fathers, brothers, hus­bands and sons than most women in other parts of the world. They, more than women elsewhere, also are statistically likely to be caught up in the disorientating and disempowering experi­ence of an enforced flight from home as war engulfs their coun­tries.

Of course, political and social turmoil affects men, too, but for women the pain is turned up several agonising notches. Con­sider this: According to some estimates, more than one-quarter of Syrian refugee households in Jordan are headed by women. The situation is not much different in Yemen. It has had six years of political strife. Since early 2015, many of the men and even young boys have been sucked into the fighting, leaving the women and girls at home to struggle as best they might to support their families.

Then there are the women stuck in refugee camps in a number of countries such as Greece. As they helplessly endure a seem­ingly endless wait to be processed and make their way into northern Europe to resume lives interrupted, these women live in constant fear of violence, including rape, according to a study published in January by the Refugee Rights Data Project.

This, because they live inadequately protected in camps, some run by the Greek government and local non-governmental organisations and mainly concentrated near the Macedonian border and in Athens. A UN Refugee Agency spokesman has admitted to concern about reports of sexual and gender-based violence, which “is closely linked to substandard living condi­tions in areas accommodating refugees”.

Clearly, female refugees face more harrowing situations than their male counterparts and are forced to experience conflict and its consequences differently because they have fewer physical resources, political rights, authority or control over their envi­ronment and needs than men.

If International Women’s Day is really to mean anything, women across the region must be substantially included in peace efforts, as well as recovery, humanitarian assistance and security operations — as partners, stakeholders and agents of delivery.

Perhaps, most importantly, these modern-day heroes should be celebrated as anchors of hope.

As Printed
Editors' Picks

The Arab Weekly Newspaper reaches Western & Arabic audience that are influential as well as being affluent.

From Europe to the Middle East,and North America, The Arab Weekly talks to opinion formers and influential figures, providing insight and comment on national, international and regional news through the focus of Arabic countries and community.

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Publisher and Group Executive Editor: Haitham El-Zobaidi, PhD

Editor-in-Chief: Oussama Romdhani

Managing Editor: Iman Zayat

Deputy Managing Editor and Online Editor: Mamoon Alabbasi

Senior Editor: John Hendel

Chief Copy Editor: Richard Pretorius

Copy Editor: Stephen Quillen

Analysis Section Editor: Ed Blanche

East/West Section Editor: Mark Habeeb

Gulf Section Editor: Mohammed Alkhereiji

Society and Travel Sections Editor: Samar Kadi

Syria and Lebanon Sections Editor: Simon Speakman Cordall

Contributing Editor: Rashmee Roshan Lall

Senior Correspondents: Mahmud el-Shafey (London) & Lamine Ghanmi (Tunis)

Regular Columnists

Claude Salhani

Yavuz Baydar


Saad Guerraoui (Casablanca)

Dunia El-Zobaidi (London)

Roua Khlifi (Tunis)

Thomas Seibert (Washington)

Chief Designer: Marwen Hmedi


Ibrahim Ben Bechir

Hanen Jebali

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Contact editor

Subscription & Advertising:

Tel 020 3667 7249

Mohamed Al Mufti

Marketing & Advertising Manager

Tel (Main) +44 20 6702 3999

Direct: +44 20 8742 9262

Al Arab Publishing House

Kensington Centre

177-179 Hammersmith Road

London W6 8BS , UK

Tel: (+44) 20 7602 3999

Fax: (+44) 20 7602 8778

Follow Us
© The Arab Weekly, All rights reserved