EDITORIAL: Most Refugees are Women and Children, Most Women and Children Aren’t Terrorists

Photo Credit: Tara Todras-Whitehill for the International Rescue Committee


By Mariane Pearl

President Trump’s refugee ban policies appear to be based on the assumption that people fleeing war pose a substantial threat to America’s national security. There is no truth in this, say experts from around the world, nor would the ban prevent terrorists from attacking the United States. And frankly, refugees tend to escape wars not launch them, they are fleeing terrorists themselves, running for the same safety the Administration is holding against them.

Like in every crisis and conflict throughout history, most refugees are women and children. They were 73% of the 15,000 Syrian refugees who resettled in the United States in 2016. Worldwide, an estimated 10 million young women have been forced to flee their homes because of wars.*

Closing our borders to refugees is often an act akin to sending people back to die. Like the two young men in our story below. Envar Ido (34) a refugee from Iraq says “Since I was 10, the only thing I have seen is war. And in all this mess, ISIS has given us the hardest times.” And Tariq Majin, a 25 year-old social worker from Syria, who said he fled because he “didn’t want to kill people for the army.”

Terrorists may seek to use the mass migration of people to find a way to strike the West as they would use every other opportunity. But refugees are ‘you and me’ kind of people, your everyday person who has been snatched out of what they knew to be their lives and plunged into misery, loss and uncertainty. Crushed by the claws of war, they are living witnesses of the unbearable cruelty that we all want to protect ourselves from. Women and men alike, American and Syrian alike. Safety is a legitimate human right.

President Trump’s Administration further claims that the ban would shelter women from “acts of bigotry or hatred” by forbidding entry to potential perpetrators*. But it also ignores the victims of said perpetrators, the refugees at the world’s borders who would be rejected on the grounds of what their persecutors did to them. Victims of terrorism become potential terrorists. President Trump is right, being a female refugee does come with its own load of brutality. Women are often physically abused and financially exploited throughout their journey from deadly seas to equally deadly transit camps. They can be raped, sold, and otherwise hurt and all we know about them, is that they are a growing number and that they suffer the most. We also know that the majority of these women, young and old alike, never had a say in the events that destroyed their lives. But they have made it so far and many are ready to work hard to create a new life for themselves, like so many Americans, just like everybody’s ancestors. These are young mothers by the hundreds who are most at risk for everything. They are looking for peace, they want to see their children grow. These are numberless women and girls without a voice, trapped under several layers of violence because of their gender alone. They can only pray that the world will not forget their reality, men and women, children alike, and won’t reduce them to a foreign, threatening concept that can be ingested in 140 characters and digested as hatred. The temptation is great to reduce people into labels, and it is also the root of all evil.

CHIME FOR CHANGE contributor Tara Todras-Whitehill documented the arrival of mostly Syrian refugees in Lesbos Island, Greece. Then, less than a year later, went back to ask about their dreams. Read and share

The Biggest Refugee Crisis of Our Time - By Tara Todras-Whitehill

I Have a Dream - Stories of refugees from Lesbos Island - By Tara Todras-Whitehill

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