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TCU professor Dr. Rima Abunasser speaks about Syrian refugee crisis

TCU professor Dr. Rima Abunasser speaks about Syrian refugee crisis

Dr. Rima Abunasser speaks on the issues of Syrian women and children in Refugee camps in the Middle East at Unpacking Gender: The Syrian Refugee Crisis on Nov.18. Haley Yates | Staff Photographer

TCU professor Dr. Rima Abunasser speaks about Syrian refugee crisis
November 20
18:59 2015

Chad Robertson | Staff Writer

@chadr0b

Over three million refugees have fled Syria since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011, and another six million still remain displaced within the country’s borders.

Today, the average Syrian woman does what she can to keep her family, and herself, alive. Whether it takes living in a temporary refugee camp in an unfamiliar area, attempting to flee from the Middle East or migrating from city to city within Syrian limits, this woman is closely acquainted with harsh conditions.

Dr. Rima Abunasser, a global literature professor at Texas Christian University, gave a speech to an audience of roughly 60 people about the relation between gender and the Syrian refugee crisis at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 13 in the UNT Environmental Science building.

One audience member asked her what life was like for Syrian women before the conflict.

“The average Syrian woman held positions in government, medicine, literature and other involved aspects of society,” Abunasser replied.

Dr. Rima Abunasser discusses the misconceptions of Syrian women and their intentions at Unpacking Gender: The Syrian Refugee Crisis on Nov.18. Haley Yates | Staff Photographer

Dr. Rima Abunasser discusses the misconceptions of Syrian women and their intentions at Unpacking Gender: The Syrian Refugee Crisis on Nov.18. Haley Yates | Staff Photographer

During the hour-long speech, Abunasser stressed the importance of recognizing the Syrian refugee woman as an individual, rather than the abstraction the world tends to see her as.

“I didn’t really think about how women are affected by the refugee crisis,” speech attendee and Bruce Hall desk clerk Rachel Clark said. “It was really enlightening to learn more about what it’s like to be a Syrian woman refugee.”

Abunasser reported that refugee camps that are set up in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon provide the bare minimum resources refugees need to survive.

“Host countries often take on a mentality that requires them to just do the least they can to keep refugees alive,” Abunasser said. “This way of thinking reduces the refugee from a human to an animal.”

She said the average Syrian refugee family living in a refugee camp survives off of 45 cents per day, and women head a fourth of the documented families living in a camp.

“We’ve been victimizing refugees this whole time,” attendee Joycelyn Jimenez, art education senior, said. “They could be a really great addition to a country’s population.”

Abunasser added that Syrian women go without proper medical and psychological care, and 2.8 million documented refugee children are currently without an education.

“Without an educated youth, a whole generation of Syrian culture will be lost,” Abunasser said.

She said most medical doctors provided by refugee camps are men, but since women refugees face a higher rate of sexual assault in camps, it makes them less likely to seek out the medical care they need due to previous traumatic experiences with men.

“Survival sex is a real thing,” Abunasser said. “Sometimes women have to resort to sex in exchange for goods.”

Dr. Rima Abunasser speaks on the issues of Syrian women and children in Refugee camps in the Middle East at Unpacking Gender: The Syrian Refugee Crisis on Nov.18. Haley Yates | Staff Photographer

Dr. Rima Abunasser speaks on the issues of Syrian women and children in Refugee camps in the Middle East at Unpacking Gender: The Syrian Refugee Crisis on Nov.18. Haley Yates | Staff Photographer

When visiting Turkey and Jordan this past year, Abunasser realized that refugee camps are often tent cities and temporary villages set up over thousands of acres. Life in a camp is often without electricity, a shortage of food and water, lack of education and constant poverty.

“It’s important for donors to shift the focus off of temporary help programs,” Abunasser said. “They need to focus on building programs that build resilience and create long-term solutions.”

The conditions faced by refugees in refugee camps have caused the surge in Syrians fleeing their tent cities for a more permanent and stable life in Europe and the West.

Western countries are grappling with how to deal with the recent surge in refugees, and how the United States is handling the situation has sparked statewide conversations.

President Obama wants to permit 10,000 refugees, most women and children, to settle across the country in 2016. But he was met with opposition from 31 state governors, including Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas.

“Effective today, I am directing the Texas Health & Human Services Commission’s Refugee Resettlement Program to not participate in the resettlement of any Syrian refugees in the State of Texas,” Abbott said in a letter written to the president. “And I urge you, as president, to halt your plans to allow Syrians to be resettled anywhere in the United States.”

It is unconstitutional for states to deny refugees due to the Refugee Act of 1980, but plenty of state governors have written similar letters to president Obama.

“The refugee crisis is a political crisis,” Abunasser said. “This requires all of us to think beyond our national narratives that isolate and divide us, and narratives that actively and passively contribute to the largest refugee crisis since WWII.”

Featured Image: Dr. Rima Abunasser speaks on the issues of Syrian women and children in Refugee camps in the Middle East at Unpacking Gender: The Syrian Refugee Crisis on Nov. 18. Haley Yates | Staff Photographer

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2 Comments

  1. Arafat
    Arafat November 21, 17:17

    I’ve got a novel idea. Let’s do nothing. Let the Muslims deal with their own problems for a change. Let’s let countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait with their endless ocean of money and Western-bought armaments figure it out instead. Surely they – being practitioners of the religion of compassion and peace – will step right up to the plate in our stead.
    OK, you caught me there. You knew I was kidding! You knew what I know which is that there is no answer to these Islamic cesspools. Whatever we do will be discredited and if we do nothing then Syria will become just another country in the endless line of Hell on Earth Islamic countries.
    We cannot save Muslims from themselves. It is like trying to save an alcoholic. Until they are ready to abandon their religion – a religion that emphasizes aggression and violence and sadism – anything we do will simply be a band-aid on a gaping wound.
    Let them go through their DTs on their own. Only then will they be ready for our friendship and help, and only then will we find a way forward together as friends.

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  2. Arafat
    Arafat November 21, 17:46

    “The refugee crisis is a political crisis,” Abunasser said. “This requires all of us to think beyond our national narratives that isolate and divide us, and narratives that actively and passively contribute to the largest refugee crisis since WWII.”
    +++

    No it isn’t. It’s a religious crisis created by Islam. Just as the 3,000,000 Sudanese refugees are thanks to Islamic jihad. Just as the 500,000 Mali refugees are thanks to Islamic caliphate building. Just as the increasingly large number of Nigerian refugees thanks to Islam, Boko Haram to be specific.

    Historians tell us Muslim jihadists killed 70 million Hindus during their centuries long jihad against the Hindus and Buddhists of southern Asia. Just imagine how many refugees were created by Muslims during these horrific centuries.

    Until we recognize the true cause of this problem, i.e., Islam we will never fix it and will simply go from one refugee crisis to the next.

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