Widowed, Divorced, Abandoned — Syrian Refugee Women Forge New Lives In Jordan

By Ann M. Simmons
Los Angeles Times

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) According to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, women head 66,000, or around 35 percent, of the 188,000 Syrian refugee families registered with the agency in Jordan. Widowed, divorced or abandoned by their husbands, these women have become their families’ sole breadwinners, roles traditionally held in Syrian society by men.

MAFRAQ, Jordan

They fled Syria while she was pregnant with her second child, a small family trying to escape, like so many others, the civil war ravaging their country.

They landed in a one-bedroom apartment in Amman, the Jordanian capital, where their only furniture, two beds and two storage closets, was donated by an orphanage. In time, her husband returned to Syria, abandoning her and their two children.

“He’s not a good father. He mistreated his children,” the young woman said, trying to hold back tears. “I am their father. I am their mother. I am everything to them.”

Her story is all too common. According to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, women head 66,000, or around 35 percent, of the 188,000 Syrian refugee families registered with the agency in Jordan. Widowed, divorced or abandoned by their husbands, these women have become their families’ sole breadwinners, roles traditionally held in Syrian society by men.

The young mother recounted her journey to Jordan through an interpreter while she registered at a UNHCR processing center in Mafraq, some 50 miles north of Amman. Fearing reprisals for family in Syria, she wanted to only be identified as um Saif, meaning “mother of Saif,” the name of her fourth-grade son.

She fled Syria four years ago when the bombing became too much. “I was very scared,” she said, but the risk was worth it. “I wanted to save myself and my children.”

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