Conference Paper - Refugee Voices 2014 Refugee Studies Centre (RSC) Oxford

Listening to the voices of Syrian women refugees in Jordan: Ethnographies of Displacement and Emplacement

By

Dr Ruba Al Akash & Karen Boswall

ABSTRACT

In the border town of Irbid, in Northern Jordan, five refugee camps host more than quarter of a million refugees, the majority of whom are women. Outside of the camps the population of the towns and villages along the border have doubled since the beginning of the Syrian crisis in 2011 bringing the number of refugees in this border area of Jordan to well over half a million. This paper is an ethnographic exploration of the real desires and needs of these Syrian refugee women. We hope this will contribute to the rethinking of the place of women refugees in Jordanian society and offer new anthropological perspectives on the impact the challenging socio-cultural environments of Irbid – Jordan is having on them and their children.

Locating the Study

 

The UNHCR estimate that by the end of 2014 there will be over 4 million Syrians seeking refuge in the neighbouring countries of Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq and Egypt making this “one of the largest refugee crises in recent history [1]. Jordan currently hosts nearly a quarter of these refugees[2], mostly in urban non-camp environments[3] in the poorer Northern Governates of Irbid and Mafraq. Over 80% of these refugees are women and children.[4] With the high numbers of refugees entering Jordan on a daily basis[5], the international agencies initially focussed their efforts on the complex challenges of providing emergency relief[6]. Two years into the crisis, however, in July 2013, it became increasingly clear that new ‘comprehensive and proactive strategies’ were required to ‘focus on more extensive and effective outreach to out-of-camp refugees’[7]. The majority of the Syrians in Jordan had been ‘voting with their feet’ (Ferguson, 2007), resorting to often extreme measures to be able to leave the Refugee Camps and settle in the nearby towns and villages, some even preferring to return to Syria than remain in the camps[8]. In the 8 months between April and December 2013, thousands of refugees continued to enter Jordan each week, however, the population of Za’atari, the largest refugee camp in Jordan dropped by 40%[9]. Although much effort has gone into ensuring the needs of the vulnerable population of the camps are protected, there are now concerns that the hundreds of thousands of women and children who have left the camps are at greater risk of a series of threats including “recruitment by armed groups, including of under-aged refugees; labour exploitation, including child labour; early marriage; as well as domestic, sexual and gender-based violence”.[10] A Harvard Field Study[11] published in January 2014 argues that without ‘innovative and creative programmatic responses’, the presence of such large number of refugees living outside the camps in Northern Jordan could increase the instability in the region. We conducted a series of interviews with women refugees who have been living outside the camps in and around the Northern city of Irbid in an effort to gage the sentiments on the ground of both the urban and rural refugee out-of-camp population. Many had shared experiences and concerns. Their journeys followed similar paths, from the individually unique yet sadly commonplace traumas each suffered in Syria, through often unwelcoming border-posts to alienating camps in Jordan and then the departure from the relative security of the camps making different sacrifices in order to regain some sense of autonomy and independence. Despite difficult relationships with their Jordanian neighbours, all were adamant camp life was not for them. Nevertheless, the perceived challenges and restricted movement of the camps had been replaced in most instances with self-imposed incarceration, with the majority of the women we spoke to rarely leaving their scantily furnished, often dark and inhospitable two room homes. Their continued life as refugees was clearly having its toll on all the women we met, who seemed to be losing any sense of hope as their days, weeks, and in some cases years continued to drag on in isolation and sadness. In this paper we will present the challenges and concerns expressed by the women and children in these interviews and argue that the protection issues that concern all those working with the women refugees in Jordan could and should be approached in parallel with culturally sensitive initiatives that work to combat this clearly pervading self-imprisonment and isolation.

Horan, the Shared Memory: A Regional Context to the Regional (Forced) Migration.

The majority of the Syrian refugees entering Northern Jordan are from the city of Dera’a, the largest city of the southern Horan plain, and only 30 kilometres from Jordanians second largest city, Irbid. Prior to the crisis, trade, marriage and movement between the two populations was commonplace. Dera’a is part of the Horan region, one of the most fertile regions in Syria with farming and herding as the main sources of income. It is made up of three Syrian provinces, Dera’a, Sweida and Quneitra and also the Al Ramtha district in Jordan. The traditional societies scattered throughout the Horan region in Syria are made up of large extended families.Religion plays a significant role in the life of these communities, which, for the majority of the women of Dera’a, means strict adherence to the codes of the Koran. As one of the homes of the opposition since the start of the crisis, the families of Dera’a are also known for sheltering many of the rebels and their families and suffering the brutal consequences. As a result of the deep historic bonds between Syrians and Jordanians many Syrians moved to Jordan to stay with relatives when the conflict first began, not considering themselves “refugees”. The tradition of on-going hospitability is now becoming a challenge in and round Irbid however. Identified as a ‘poverty pocket’ by the UNHCR at the start of Syrian crisis, the pressures on schools, hospitals, the police and the fragile job market has brought about increasing tensions between the Jordanian and Syrian populations in and around the city. With an already straining infrastructure, with shortages of water, electricity, housing, schooling and healthcare, the directorates of Irbid Al Ramtha, Tura, Shajara, and Emrawa are now struggling under the increasing pressures of the massive influx of over a half a million refugees, increasing the population of Irbid alone by over 10%[12]. Rents have increased tenfold in Irbid since the beginning of the crisis[13], and when a survey was conducted not much more than a year into the crisis, 80% of Jordanians were found to favour the segregation of Syrian Refugees in camps[14]. As the likelihood of a quick solution to the conflict and subsequent return of the refugees becomes increasingly unlikely, the regional and historic ties that unify the Syrians and Jordanians are making way for points of potential friction between the two communities.

 

The Reciprocal Approach of Critical Ethnography.

Throughout this study our ethnographic approach is characterised by the different perspectives of the two authors of this paper; a Jordanian anthropologist and a British documentary film-maker. The data was gathered using both an objective analytical approach and a more subjective empathetic interpretation of the human experiences shared with us. The partnership between the two researchers was an essential element in the methodology behind this research[15]. Through the outside/inside perspective of this partnership we were able to draw on our different perspectives and multilayered observations, analysis and evaluations[16].

Listening to the voices and the silence

 

Over a period of five months, we spent time with 15 extended families in Irbid and the surrounding villages, and worked with one focus group of about twenty women who live on the same corridor of an office building in the centre of Irbid that had been converted into refugee accommodation in 2012 and housed approximately 70 families. Through a combination of conversations, group interviews and careful observations of the often-inexpressible realities, sometimes transmitted through silence, body language and often tears, we began to build a picture of both the spoken and unspoken fears and dreams of these women.In her article on Speech, Gender and Power, Cecile Jackson argues that the challenge for researchers and development practitioners is to improve their ability to listen and hear[17]. Silences, she argues, ‘can be resistant and expressive’ while speech can be associated with ‘a loss of agency’ (Jackson, 2012:1020). Throughout this study our theoretical standpoint was to create an atmosphere of trust where the women could feel comfortable to speak and voice their experiences. Where there was silence, we ‘listened’.

 

Selecting the Families for the Research

It was important to us as independent researchers that our access to the families was also as independent as possible. We selected two distinct localities where refugees were living in large numbers outside of the camp setting, one in the city of Irbid and the other in the rural village of Tura 25 Kilometres from Irbid and about one Kilometre from the Syrian border. In Irbid the connection was made largely through private landlords who rented buildings to the refugees and in Tura through a group of local volunteers offering support to the refugee population[18]. Our intention was to provide a safe and comfortable space for the women we met to discuss the issues that were most important to them. We interviewed most families in their homes, or in the case of the group, in the home of one of the community members[19]. In order to gage a broader sense of the realities of larger number of refugees, we also spoke to individuals in public areas of Irbid where refugees gathered for urban registration and collection of food and coupons. Our individual family interviews lasted an average of two hours, with the group discussion lasting four. The subject matter of each interview varied slightly depending on the context of each encounter. Common themes were the journey from Syria to Jordan, initial impressions upon arrival and how this has changed over time, and descriptions of both day-to-day activities and significant events since their arrival such as marriages and access to employment. The aspect of psychological and emotional wellbeing was soon included as an area of discussion. Questions regarding the connections and interactions with members of both the non-refugee and the refugee communities were also included. Keeping a flexible and intuitive response to the line of questioning, we were able to pose new questions and so discover new realities and respond to them as they became apparent. All interviews with the refugees were conducted in Arabic and where possible audio recordings were made to facilitate future translation as well as to enable the researchers to fully engage with the interviewees rather than taking notes. Information and data has also been collected through interviews with representatives of both the Jordanian government and humanitarian aid agencies and supported by published and online sources.

Findings from the Research

 

There were a number of similarities between the experiences and preoccupations shared by the families and in particular the women we interviewed. The events prior to leaving Syria, and the experiences in the refugee camps, the relationships with their Jordanian neighbours, and their living conditions were difficult and traumatic for all those we interviewed, as was the level of isolation and the sadness all the women carried. Many of those we interviewed described spending hours of each day in tears. There is not space in this paper to tell the stories of all the women we interviewed during this research, however we will address some of the common themes and draw on the words of the women and girls to illustrate these experiences.

 

Traumatic Departures

The decision to leave Syria was the result of an extremely traumatic experience for each of the families we have been working with. Setting out for the unknown was generally only undertaken after an event catalysed a need to protect family members from death, rape, or imprisonment and torture. Om Abdullah[20] for example, fled when the brutalised body of her husband was delivered to her family home. We met this 25-year-old widow in a small dark apartment in Irbid clutching at the well-worn photograph of her husbands brutalized body. He had been participating in anti-government protests in Dera’a when he was arrested. For a month she was unaware of his whereabouts until his body was eventually returned. Her brother took the photographs in the hope they could be used in a case against the government. Om Abdullah carries the laminated photographs in her handbag and throughout the interview stared at them from time to time in disbelief. Fearing her 19-year-old brother would share the same fate; her parents encouraged them to flee to Jordan with her three year-old son and 6-year-old sister. In the same building another family of refugees were still waiting for news of their son who was arrested many months ago. We found his mother Om Mohammed in tears when we arrived, beside herself with worry as to what has happened to him. She left Dara’a with her other two sons and her three daughters aged 8, 17 and 20, making the difficult decision to try to protect her remaining children and leave her husband behind in Syria to continue searching for Mohammed.

 

 

The Choice to Leave the Camps

 

Over 80% of the Syrian refugees living in Jordan have settled outside of the refugee camps.[21] The majority of these were taken by the Jordanian military from the border to the largest camp, Al Za’atari, which is close to the border and 27 miles from the city of Irbid. There, with some of the last remaining money or possessions most bought their way out of the camp.

Some families we interviewed were smuggled out of Al Za’atari, some were provided with the necessary documents that enabled them to leave officially.[22]   Om Adel arrived in Zatari from Daal, two years ago in a family group of seventeen people.

 

“They gave us cards in Za’atari to get tents and food we gave these cards as money to the person who took us outside.” (from interview with Om Adel January 2014)

 

The difficulties described by the interviewees that motivated them to leave the camps ranged from physical discomfort, especially those arriving in the winter months, to psychological and emotional stress, not least for fear of the safety of their daughters.

 

Om Omar, who lives now with nine family members in a small apartment in Irbid, arrived in Za’atari in the winter of 2012 and stayed only two days before deciding to leave. Life for Om Omar outside the camp was more difficult than she expected.

 

“Our life is a tragedy. Inside or outside the camps we are all living in a misery. My ex-neighbour lives in Al Za’atari. Her daughter is 11 years old and got married last month because she is worried about her from rape”. (Om Omar)

 

Many of those we interviewed talked of the perceived risk of rape of their younger daughters. It is difficult to know if this fear is founded on experience and no particular cases of rape were cited by any of our interviewees. Official statistics are also unlikely to be representative for a number of reasons, not least due to the general mistrust the Syrians have for authority figures. In November 2013, the Jordanian police working in Za’atari, had only one recorded rape case on file in Za’atari since the camp opened[23]. The perceived threat continues to pervade the camp however, and with virginity so important to unmarried girls, many of our interviewees felt their daughters were safer outside the camp, where toilet and cooking facilities were not some distance from the family tent or caravan and not shared with strangers [24].

 

“I can’t stand to see my daughter raped in front of my eyes if I want to get back to Syria, I can’t live with this shame” (Interview with Abu Nour, January 2014)

 

For many of the families interviewed, the marriage of a young daughter was seen as a solution to a number of difficulties, including financial, Marrying a daughter relieves the family of the financial responsibility for their daughter and in some instances it also brought in additional financial benefits. In the case of the marriage of Om Hassan’s 16 year old daughter Nour, it meant an exit pass from Al Za’atari for her entire family.

 

“When we were in Al Za’atari we were so depressed and unhappy. My family were starving and we lived 11 persons in one tent. A Syrian woman visited us so many times. After three visits she told my mother that there is a Saudi groom for your daughter. At the beginning I refused, but later I thought that this man would save the whole family. He promised to take us out of the camp and give us a lot of money. I married him and he took us all out of the camp to this home where we live now.” (from interview with Nour, January 2014)

 

Nour and her family now live in Tura, a small village outside of Za’atari. The man she married was 32 years old. After two months of marriage, he left for Saudi Arabia and has not returned.

“Two months later he told me he was going to Saudi Arabia to get the required papers for me to be able to go to Saudi Arabia. I spoke to him several times but later his phone did not work. Now, I don't know where is he. He dumped me.” (Nour, 2014)

 

Being an abandoned wife brings shame to the family. Nour is not pregnant, but unlike her younger siblings, she does not attend the local school because she is ashamed of her situation. She is unable to trace her husband as she had no address or other contact details.

 

Child Labour and Underage Marriage.

 

Syrian refugees are not entitled to work. Religious organisations, NGO’s and governmental agencies provide some support to those that are registered with them. Nevertheless most of the refugees living outside the camps struggle to survive. A number of solutions are found to generate additional income, including accepting extremely low wages for illegal work. A number of the men in the families we visited were in hiding from the Jordanian police and nervous to look for work again for fear of deportation back to Syria. This has resulted in both increased levels of underage marriages for the girls[25] and increased instances of child labour, largely carried out by the boys[26]. We found cases of both in many of the families we interviewed.

 

Areen, for example, was married to a 39 year old man from the United Aram Emirates (UAE) when she was 14. She went with her new husband to Dubai for one month before he divorced her and sent her back to Jordan. She was very unhappy, regularly beaten and bullied by the husband’s three other wives. Areen, Nesreen and Nour had been abandoned by their husbands but were not officially divorced making them unable to marry again.

 

For the girls who remain in the marriage, the challenges are no less overwhelming. On our visit to their home in Irbid, Om Omar was preparing her 15 year old daughter Majed for marriage with tales of her own marriage when she was even younger than her daughter. The wedding imminent and Majed knew very little of her future husband. He was 19 and lived in the same building. He saw her one day and proposed the union to her family. “I am marrying next week” she told us “but I feel I’m not in a position of responsibility. I am aware of how to treat my husband how I am going to be pregnant and raise children but I am afraid I can’t cook.” (From interview with Majed, January 2014) Om Omar explained to us, rather apologetically, how, with nine people in their two roomed apartment, including her 19 year old son and his 16 year old wife, and rent just increased to 270 JD’s (£230.00) a month, it was necessary for her young daughter to marry and be fed by her husband’s family.

 

When 21 year Adel found a job in an electronic shop he soon found a 16-year-old wife. His mother told us

“Her parents told us that if you want to take our daughter as your son’s wife we don’t mind because we don’t have enough money to feed her. We have this tradition in Dera’a. Even my daughters, if a good man proposes to them, I would not mind them marrying at this early age. Girls are a big responsibility. A family with a lot of girls is paralysed. The girls life is bitter, from the beginning of life to the death.” (From Interview with Om Adel, January 2014)

 

Alone and Surrounded by People

 

Another disturbing aspect of the reality of Syrian women living outside of the camps is the extreme isolation. A deep mistrust of both their Jordanian and Syrian neighbours, coupled with codes of modesty and inter family dependency has exacerbated this phenomenon where thousands of Syrian women and girls spend their days closed away in their small rooms rarely if ever leaving the building. In a study of the Syrian refugees living outside the camps in Jordan conducted by UN Women in 2013[27] it was found that over 20% of girls under the age of 16 and nearly 19% of women never leave their homes and nearly 50% of both women and girls very rarely left the home. Even where families live on the same floor of apartment buildings, it is unusual for them to spend time together or even to communicate with one another. Om Omar, a 32-year-old single mother lives with her eleven children in a two-room apartment in Irbid. She doesn’t know her neighbours.

“We don’t gather with anybody in this building, not even the Syrian people. We don’t want trouble. It is more comfortable to be alone, we say ‘with no eyes to see and no hearts to be sad’. In Dera’a the whole village was one family, but here I am living alone with fear. (From an interview with Om Omar, January 2014)

Om Omar’s new 16-year-old daughter-in-law recently moved in with the family. She tried to settle in a village outside of Irbid with her new husband as it was cheaper. But she was so lonely she returned.

“I was struggling. It was like I was in prison there. I did not know anybody and I couldn’t go outside. I told my husband I want to live with your mother because I am worried if I get killed here no one will know.” (from Interview with Aba, Om Omar’s daughter in law. January 2014)

 

Many of the girls we spoke to referred to their homes as a prison. They also lamented the fact that they had so little to do. Fatima is the 15-year-old daughter of Om Mohammed whose brother is missing following his arrest many months ago.

“We are bored here. There is nothing to do. We are not allowed to go to school, we are not allowed to go out, we are not allowed to mix with other people because we are girls. Death is better than this life. If we ask for anything the answer is we can get it when we go back to Syria. Our day begins with working with our mother and then cleaning. After that we watch TV, cry for a while after watching the news and then sleep. This is our daily routine”. (From Interview with Fatima, The daughter of Om Mohammed November, 2013)

 

Fatima’s mother suggested she read the Quran to get over her boredom. It makes you feel better and comforts all your pains she told us. In fact, reading the Quran was the only activity we heard suggested by any of the women we interviewed as an acceptable way to seek comfort from the hardships of refugee life. Other communal activities that have been introduced in refugee communities around the world, such as using creative processes to process their traumas, making music, forming groups and societies, studying, are not considered appropriate by any of the women we interviewed. It’s not right, they told us, when so many people are still suffering. It was as if the women carried the burden of sadness as a responsibility not to take lightly. It was their duty as Syrian women to connect through their tears with those who are suffering and loosing their lives. The daily routine of crying, either alone or in groups was a common regular activity among all the women we interviewed.

“We don’t live a normal life. We are not happy. A lot of people from my family got killed in Syria, so how we can live a normal life? We live with sadness. We lost happiness, there is no space for it.” (From an Interview with Nadia recorded in November 2013)

 

Om Omar, who is living with her eleven children and her daughter-in-law speaks to her mother and father who live in Syria on the phone every day. “I have a daily programme of crying for at least two hours a day” she told us. “I call my parents and when I hear the news from Syria I cry blood”. (From Interview with Om Omar recorded in January 2014)

 

For many of the families we spoke to, the possibility of returning to Syria whether there was a risk of being killed or not was very real despite loosing hope in any resolution being found to the conflict. They fear their future inside Jordan and outside and many expressed their sense that no-one was listening.

 

Conclusion

 

In this ethnography we have analysed the current life of Syrian refugee women and their burden of leaving and resettling in new places. People’s stories and narratives and their expression of the experiences that have shaped their day-to-day lives however form the backbone of this study. By airing reflections on the fear, suffering and sadness of some Syrian refugee women living outside the camps in and around Irbid, this paper highlights the complex and multilayered nature of refugee experience. The narratives and life stories set out in this paper provide insight into some of the experiences of those refugees who are suffering the consequences of the current conflict in Syria. Through listening to the Syrian refugee voices in Irbid-Jordan we have been able to highlight some of the concerns and risks of the women and young girls living in the hostile and unfamiliar reality of life as a refugee, with memories of a harrowing past, unable to create new life, while waiting for their homes to be safe enough for them to return.

 

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[1] UNHCR, “2014 Syria Regional Response Plan,” December 16, 2013. Accessed February 21st, 2014, http://www.unhcr.org/syriarrp6/docs/Syria-rrp6-full-report.pdf

[2] Numbers of Syrian refugees in Jordan was 576,420 on Feb 23rd 2013 (618,615 Nov 20th 2014) of a total of 2,499,323 in the region. on Feb 23rd 2013 (3,102,334 on December 1st 2014) updated daily on https://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/regional.php

[3] The UNHCR estimated in the above report in December 2013 that the number of refugees living in non-camp settings in Jordan would rise from 81% to 84% by the beginning of 2014

[4] Figure provided by UNHCR Protection chief Volker Turk at a conference in London in December 2013 http://www.unhcr.org.uk/news-and-views/news-list/news-detail/article/unhcrs-protection-chief-sees-key-role-in-future-for-syrian-refugee-women.html (accessed Fe 21 2014)

[5] In October 2013 it was estimated that 6,000 Syrians were fleeing the country every day. See http://www.mercycorps.org/articles/iraq-jordan-lebanon-syria/quick-facts-what-you-need-know-about-syrian-refugee-crisis accessed 24 Feb 2013

[6] The first anti-government demonstrations were in the city of Daraa in March 2011. By July this had spread into armed conflict and Syrians began to seek refuge in neighbouring countries soon after.

[7] See: PDES/2013/13 July 2013 “From slow boil to breaking point: A real-time evaluation of UNHCR’s response to the Syrian
refugee emergency” http://www.alnap.org/resource/8848 where it was deemed ‘essential’ that ‘UNHCR national and international staff, as well as partners, are regularly present in communities, working with them to address the challenges they face’

[8] In August 2013, in a meeting between the UNHCR and the governer of Daraa Mohammad Khaled al-Hannous, it was stated that nearly 2800 family had already returned to Daraa from al-Za'atari camp in Jordan. See https://www.facebook.com/SyrianArabNewsAgencySana/posts/610067082349156

[9] Figures provided by the Harvard Field Sudy group 2014. Calculated from data available on UNHCR’s Syria Regional Response Inter-agency Information Sharing Portal. Population flow examined from April 23, 2013 to December 31, 2013, representing the difference between Zaatari camp’s peak population to the end of the calendar year. Data available at: 
http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/country.php?id=107.

[10] See: PDES/2013/13 July 2013 “From slow boil to breaking point: A real-time evaluation of UNHCR’s response to the Syrian
refugee emergency” where the UNHCR’s Policy Development and Evaluation Service (PDES) recommend “Quick Impact Projects” be designed to “provide immediate and tangible benefits to those living in refugee-populated areas”. Such projects, it states, “should be accompanied by an effective communications strategy, so as to ensure that their purposes are well understood and that messages of solidarity and community cohesion are conveyed to refugees and host populations alike”.

[11] Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research (HPCR) Harvard Field Study Group, January 2014, Jordan Non-Paper on the International Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis See: http://hpcrresearch.org/publications/other-publications

 

[12] See: PDES/2013/13 July 2013 “From slow boil to breaking point: A real-time evaluation of UNHCR’s response to the Syrian
refugee emergency”

[13] MercyCorps, “Mapping of Host Community-Refugee Tensions in Mafraq and Ramtha, Jordan,” May 2013, 9. 


[14] Nicholas Seeley, “Most Jordanians Say No More Syrian Refugees,” Christian Science Monitor, October 1, 2012, accessed Feb 21st 2014.

[15] Dr Ruba Al Akash, a local anthropologist with a strong connection to the history and people of this border region. Karen Boswall, journalist and film-maker with prior focus on post conflict resolution in Africa, Mozambique in particular. (See: www.karenboswall.com)

[16] The authors recognize that both were clearly ‘outsiders’ when it came to identifying with the experience of the Syrian refugees and due to differences in class, nationality and education, the ‘insider’ perspective of the Jordanian ethnographer was limited to a sharing of common cultural codes and values shared between Northern Jordan and Syria.

[17] See: Cecile Jackson Speech, Gender and Power: Beyond Testimony Development and Change, 2012, vol. 43, issue 5, pages 999-1023

[18] It is recognized that no introduction made between researcher and their subject comes without a complex set of expectations and assumptions. In this case, it is possible that the association with the landlord may have come with expectations of being given the opportunity to provide a convincing argument for lowering the rent, for example. In Tura, it was later discovered that the relationship between the volunteers and the community also came with complex power relationships. It became apparent by September 2014 that the Jordanian volunteer who was our main point of contact with the refugees was not liked and was seen to be abusing his power both as a man and as a point of contact with Jordanian authorities. We are still convinced however, that these initial introductions meant that we were able to connect with a more representative group of refugees than had we been introduced through international development agencies, which in themselves come with a host of expectations and power relations.

[19] Many of the families living in Irbid were renting rooms in apartment blocks inhabited largely by refugees, yet in most cases there was no sense of community between the families, each remaining isolated, almost self-incarcerated in their small private spaces. One exception was a converted office block off Cinema Street in downtown Irbid where each two-room apartment was separated from the central corridor by a curtain and the corridor itself became a communal space where children played. Here the women all knew one another and had informally chosen one member of the community to represent and help them in matters they were struggling with. It was in this building that we decided to conduct a group interview with a focus group. This was conducted in the home of Om Taim, the informal representative of the group.

[20] The names of the people interviewed have been changed to preserve their identity.

[21] See: UNHCR, “2014 Syria Regional Response Plan,” December 16, 2013. Accessed February 21st, 2014, http://www.unhcr.org/syriarrp6/docs/Syria-rrp6-full-report.pdf where it was estimated that the number of refugees living in non-camp settings in Jordan would rise from 81% to 84% by the beginning of 2014

[22] The Jordanian Government require that each refugee living outside the camp has a Jordanian guarantor. A lucrative business has developed around the camps to provide these guarantors for a sum. The sum varies but it was often quoted at around 200 Jordanian Dinar (approx. £175) per person.

[23] Figure provided by Brigadeer Waddah M. Hmoud, director of The Syrian Refugees Camps Affairs Department (SCRD) during an interview in November 2013

[24] For a full UNHCR report on Gender based violence among Syrian refugees, see “Gender based violence and child-protection among Syrian refugees in Jordan with a focus on Early Marriage” published by UNWOMEN in 2013

[25] “Gender based violence and child-protection among Syrian refugees in Jordan with a focus on Early Marriage” published by UNWOMEN in 2013 states that “While there is no conclusive evidence that Syrian refugees are marrying early at a higher rate in Jordan than in Syria, this study notes that the sense of economic and physical insecurity that, among other factors, drive early marriage is amplified in displacement.”

 

[26] In 47% of refugee households that reported paid employment, a child is contributing to the household’s income, and 15% reported child labor as the primary source (85% of reported child laborers were boys). Statistics from “Gender based violence and child-protection among Syrian refugees in Jordan with a focus on Early Marriage” published by UNWOMEN in 2013

[27] Data from the 2013 study published in“Gender based violence and child-protection among Syrian refugees in Jordan with a focus on Early Marriage” (UNWOMEN in 2013) pp 22,23