Refugee Survivors

Men who have died for the service of their country are usually the first to come to mind when people think of victims of war. The effects of war and conflict on women are an afterthought. Women and girls left behind become the refugees of another nation – if not multiple nations.

These women, girls, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and female cousins live on without their sons and fathers, their brothers and uncles. They endured the terrors of war alone, surviving the savagery of rape and sexual assault prevalent throughout war and conflict (Botelho, 2014; Hall, 2014). Conflict forced these young girls, intelligent women and strong grandmothers to desert their homes, flee from their country and find peace elsewhere.

These honorable women deserve recognition equal to that of the men who have fought for their country.

I must elaborate why these women are personally honorable. This past summer I volunteered with an organization that works with refugees who are survivors of torture. As a volunteer driver, I drove refugees to and from appointments. It was a daunting task, especially because I only speak English. I felt humbled interacting with these women, knowing every person I encountered was a survivor of torture.

What I learned was not that these people are first refugees, tortured survivors, and finally people. There are, first and foremost, humans—humans who happened to survive torture and are refugees in this country.

One woman I gave a ride to was in extreme pain. I specifically remember driving significantly slower over bumps or sewage holes in the road to minimalize her pain. I got out of my car and opened her door when we arrived. She didn’t know me. We couldn’t speak the same language. But when she looked me in the eyes, she hit me on the shoulder as anyone would with a friend, and we laughed together.

I do not know her story, or where she was from. I did know this much, however—she was a person far from her home, displaced because of conflict, war, and suffering. I do not know if she had been raped—not just one time but multiple times—as a young Yadizi woman was (Hall, 2014). I do not know what caused the pain she felt.

But in that moment, I did know this woman was, yes, a refugee, but more importantly a person that survived, and still survives. I honor her and all the other women–young, teenaged, middle-aged, and elderly, who survive and seek refuge today.

—by MLFD

[1] Botelho, G. (2014), Cnn, http://www.cnn.com/2014/12/12/world/meast/isis-justification-female-slaves/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

[2] Hall, J. (2014). ISIS releases sickening video clip showing syrian woman being stoned to death by group of men – including her own father. Daily Mail http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2801575/isis-releases-sickening-video-clip-showing-syrian-woman-stoned-death-group-men-including-father.html

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