Today’s Talk Topic: Women, Girls, and the ‘Slow Violence’ of the Syrian Civil War


It’s a dismaying report—the International Rescue Committee’s new study on the plight of the women and girls displaced by the Syrian civil war. In addition to the destitution, hunger, injury, and ever-present danger that male refugees endure, female refugees face even greater suffering. They are preyed on because they are female.

The IRC has documented these extra afflictions (rape, early and forced marriage, increased domestic violence, kidnapping)—the “slow violence” that makes women and girls afraid to step out of their homes—just in time for this week’s meeting of the UN General Assembly. The committee’s short video lets Zaeemah, Farah, and Sabeen speak out about their struggle to survive: “I feel suffocated all the time”; “people think Syrian women will marry anyone to get out of the hardship”; “they are scared to even open the door if someone knocks”; “I want my voice to be heard everywhere, so people will feel with us.”

Both the report and the video are entitled Are We Listening?—a headline acknowledging the problem of “disaster apathy” on the part of the public. Journalist Peter Foster notes this in his recent article in London’s The Telegraph:

But hideous though these individual crimes are [the beheadings and crucifixions carried out by ISIS], there is also a great slab of silent suffering caused by Syria’s civil war that goes comparatively unreported because it is, well, just too mundane to make juicy headlines—though when you start to delve into it, in aggregate it feels almost as shocking and grim.

This is the collective experience of the 3.5m refugees displaced by Syria’s civil war, four-out-of-five of whom are women and girls . . . . Environmentalists talk about the “slow violence” being done to the planet by human activities. This is a kind of human “slow violence” being done to an entire generation of Middle Eastern women and children who are now growing up as refugees.

To learn more, read the IRC’s report and David Foster’s article (links above), and listen—to David Miliband, the IRC’s president, soberly describing what female refugees endure.



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  • hillsmom September 23, 2014 at 11:12 am

    How can a person keep from crying while watching this…?