Migrant women subject to sexual harassment and physical violence on their journey to Turkey, says sociologist

Afghan migrants rest while waiting for transport by smugglers after crossing the Iran-Turkish border on August 15, 2021 in Tatvan, on the western shores of Lake Van, eastern Turkey. (Photo by Ozan KOSE / AFP)

Sociologist Didem Danış has said migrant women face many hurdles on their journey to Turkey, including sexual harassment and physical violence.

Speaking to BBC Turkish service, Danış said the number of female migrants in Turkey had increased exponentially over the last two decades. “For many migrant women, the journey to Turkey is a very dangerous one,” she said. “They are subject to sexual harassment and physical violence.”

One Afghan woman who did not want to reveal her name said she was raped by a migrant smuggler in Iran and became pregnant as a result. The woman contemplated suicide but changed her mind for the sake of the baby.

She later gave birth in a Turkish hospital. However, with an infant depending on her, the young woman was unable to find a job as nobody was willing to employ her.

Upon their arrival in Turkey migrant women’s problems do not end as most of them are undocumented migrants. Farangis Habibullah, a migration researcher, said undocumented migrant women were like “ghosts.”

In addition to being subject to violence, women face economic problems. According to Danış many worked as caregivers for the elderly and children.

“Migration is a difficult process and entails a lot of suffering for women. However, they also undertake these hurdles in search of a better life. Hope is a big part of migration,” said Danış.

A recent report by the Diyarbakır Bar Association revealed that Syrian women were the most discriminated against among refugees in Turkey.

The bar association said more than half the refugees who applied to them for legal advice were women and that most of them sought assistance in instances of kidnap, rape, harassment, physical violence and divorce.

The report also found that Syrian women grappled with poverty and discrimination in the labor market.

According to UNHCR Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees worldwide. The country is currently home to around 3.6 million registered Syrian refugees along with close to 320,000 persons of concern of other nationalities.

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