The Arabist recently published a article by Parastou Hassouri, detailing her perspectives of the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan while working there for four months this winter.

[The camp] is situated in a stretch of desert that was flattened and graveled, with one main paved road running the length of the camp, and rows upon rows of tents and prefabricated containers to either side of the paved road. People with far more experience than I have would tell me that it was a nice camp. One UNHCR photographer called it the “Hilton” of refugee camps (this only made me shudder to think what other camps are like).

Hassouri also describes the hardships of women and girls in the camp, who face early marriage, sexual assault, and other forms of exploitation.

A significant portion of the camp (easily a third) consisted of female-headed households. Some had been sent by their husbands, who were staying behind in Syria to tend to their work or homes, or were actively fighting. Some of the women were widows, and some had husbands who had disappeared. I was also taken aback by what large families they had, and how young women were when they got married. It was astounding how many women I met who, by the time they were in their 30’s, had already given birth to upwards of 7 or 8 children (and looked like they were much, much older). It was devastating to meet widows who were only 19.

Read the full article on The Arabist website.

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