According to the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) over 3 million people have fled the Syrian conflict since 2011. Another 6.5 million are internally displaced within Syria. Studies and discussions of the worst refugee crisis since WWII, though, focus on the host societies; the narrative of the Syrian refugee is reductive and incomplete and the resulting global response is woefully insufficient. Notably absent from this narrative are Syrian women, who constitute almost 4 out of every 5 displaced Syrians. Nearly a quarter of all Syrian families on the run are headed by women who live in extreme poverty, experience sexual violence and exploitation, and who constantly fear for the safety of their children. These difficulties are not new phenomena, as women in conflict zones are disproportionately vulnerable to abuse, exploitation, and health crises, yet surprisingly work in this area is very limited. The UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) reports that '[t]here have been no studies on gender issues' as they relate to migrant and refugee flows. The Syrian woman refugee is at the center of the largest forced displacement crisis in the world, yet she is statistically invisible. Perhaps it is time for us to listen to her story.
Rima Abunasser holds a Ph.D. in English Literature and Theory, specializing in 18th-century British Literature, Transnational Literature, and Women and Gender Studies. She teaches courses on contemporary Arabic literature, British literature, and Transnational women's writing at Texas Christian University.