She was married in the 9th grade: she was forced out of school and was unwillingly wedded while still being a minor, to suffer the worst mental and physical abuse by her husband over 15 years before she finally got a divorce.
Some married women in Northwestern Syria suffer Intimate Partner Violence, which often leads to death or physical harm ــــ let alone the mental damage caused by the violence. Fearing the stereotyping imposed on divorced women by society, women can’t leave their children and ask for divorce.
Accepting Violence vs Facing Society
Most women suffering IPV endure the cruelties and hardships of life, so that they’d save the marriage and the future of their children. There’s also the fear of shaming imposed on divorced women by local communities, which blames women for the divorce without any consideration for the sufferings caused by the husband. Society asks women to endure all the husband’s negativity, just to keep the family together.
Over five years, Umm Khaled (pseudonym) has continuously suffered IPV that caused her many health problems. She decided to break up with him, but fearing for the future of her two daughters stopped her from asking for divorce. “I live a tough life with my husband ــــ humiliation, beating, and miserliness. He once hit me in the eye until it bled. And previously, he hit me in the kidney and ribs and I was hospitalized for several days,” she said.
“I thought about breaking up with him. But thinking about the fate of my two daughters, and what will happen to them when I am gone, stopped me. Besides, I can’t stand the thought of being away from them; especially that the society where I am living doesn’t accept the idea of getting a divorce and taking my two daughters with me to live at my parent’s house,” Umm Khaled adds sorrowfully.
The bitter life Samar (pseudonym) has been living is no better, as she faces constant IPV. After her son passed away, her husband got married to another woman. So, instead of consoling her, he made her even sadder by getting married; and beating and insulting her in front of her children. She hopes to reach women’s organizations defending women’s rights, but she can’t as her husband is forbidding her from going out.
Shaza, who gave up education to marry an excessively abusive man, has lived a tough life for 15 years. “My husband has beaten me so severely that I had a concussion and several broken bones. Let alone the mental abuse, the constant cursing, and forbidding me from seeing my family,” she tells Rozana.
She tried to rid herself of that abusive life she’s been living, and find a solution that would get her away from the beating and the insulting, but her family refused the idea of her being divorced and considered it against customs and traditions. After 15 years of putting up with violence, she managed to get the divorce after her parents passed away. However, on the grounds that she’s the one that asked for divorce, she lost all her rights and the custody of her children.
Shaza didn’t care about what the society had to say about her being divorced. She continued her education, got into college, and started her undergraduate studies. Her tough experience with her husband gave her an opportunity to start her own project ــــ she started Amaan (safety) Organization in Kafr Takharim, so that it’d be a safe space for women suffering from IPV.
The organization works on providing psychological support sessions, different workshops for women, and so many other activities. “The idea came from the violence a friend of mine and I have experienced. We decided to work on the idea to help women suffering from violence. So, we began attracting small projects working in training and habilitation and we organized trainings on gender-based violence; and child marriage and its effect on the health of female children. That was a success, and so we moved onto psychological support for abused women,” Shaza explains.
The organization, founded by Shaza, helped nearly 300 women in different fields through women habilitation courses such as sewing; hair styling for women; handicraft; and making dessert. The organization has also a humanitarian approach, through which it provides aid to women. Let alone its collaborations with a number of organizations to provide women with awareness sessions on child marriage and reproductive health, according to Shaza.
Umm Muhammad, a woman in her thirties, has gotten a divorce after going through a tough experience with her husband. She managed to benefit from the services provided by the organization, as she signed up for different courses that changed her life. Therefore, she advises all abused women not to tolerate the injustice they go through; to be strong; and to be self-dependent.
67% of women in Syria reported having received “punishment” from their husbands. 87% of which was physical violence, according to a 2016 UNFPA report. In Jordan and Lebanon, more than 70% of violent incidents happened in refugees’ homes. Of those incidents, 80% were perpetrated by an intimate partner or someone known to the victim, the report adds.
You can listen to the 'Aman Min Aleunf (Safety From Violence) episode of Shw Alhal (What’s the Solution?) podcast, here.