Target: President Michel Suleiman
Goal: Hold sexual abusers accountable and allow refugees to report sexual misconduct to authorities
Female Syrian refugees are being repeatedly harassed by their employers, landlords, and faith- based aid distributors in Lebanon. Unfortunately these women fail to report such incidents to the local authorities for fear of being arrested for not having a valid residency permit or being hurt further by the abuser. They also believe that authorities wouldn’t bother to carry out an investigation or punishment. One woman who reported her case to a United Nations representative was told that nothing could be done to aid her. These refugees have already suffered dearly from fleeing Syria; the authorities in Lebanon should respect that they are in a vulnerable position and halt the sexual harassment.
Human Rights Watch interviewed twelve women who experienced sexual harassment — sometimes repeatedly — in different areas of Lebanon. Unfortunately it means that this problem is not centralized in one area, but affects the entire nation. Surprisingly, eight of these women are either widowed, unmarried, or in the country without their husbands.
One woman by the name of Hala worked as a maid, cleaning homes to support herself and her four children. She suffered sexual harassment in nine of the ten houses she cleaned, where they would try to touch her breasts, coerce her into having sex, or try to marry her sixteen year old daughter. They would say, ‘We will give you more money if you perform a sexual favor or give us your daughter.’ Hala no longer works and depends on the church for help. She has not reported these incidents to authorities because she believes they will not help her.
Hala’s situation has been experienced throughout Lebanon, where employers and landlords try to touch the women’s breasts or coerce them into having sex. Refugees shouldn’t have to suffer further, especially after experiencing the destruction and fear from fleeing Syria. The authorities need to reassure these women that their reports of sexual harassment will be taken care of. You can help ensure the safety of these women by signing this petition.
Dear President Michel Suleiman,
It has come to my attention that female Syrian refugees are being sexually harassed by their employers, landlords, and even from faith-based aid distributors. These refugees have suffered dearly from their native country and shouldn’t have to suffer further while they are trying to piece their lives back together.
Those who have been sexually harassed or abused should be able to report their case to authorities, and be confident in knowing that their case will be investigated and they won’t be further punished by exposing a crime. I realize that your country is being strained by the massive numbers of refugees, but please be compassionate towards these people who have had no control over what happened to them in Syria. If the people of Lebanon had to flee and become refugees, wouldn’t you want them to be treated with dignity and respect? Please ensure that your authorities listen and do everything in their power to protect these women.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Hossam el-Hamalawy via Flickr