What is the focus of your research? What are major findings and barriers in conducting the research?
My research is about the gender roles changes of Syrian women (refugees) in Berlin. Most of these Syrian women had to move from Syria – when the conflict started in 2011 – to neighboring countries (Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq). In the last two years, many of them have had to flee to European countries, and Germany was the final destination for most of them. I am doing this research to develop a deeper insight into how the Syrian women see themselves, in a country such as Germany, known for its progressive laws and norms towards women. Do they see it as a chance or challenge? I am still in the early stages of this research, so far I have been lucky to be able to access some refugees‘ centers, to do interviews with Syrian women. The biggest challenge for this research is that most of the Syrian women who came to Germany in the last year, are still living in refugee accommodations and they have not yet had the chance to know the German society, it norms, regulations…etc.
„Most of the women that I interviewed want to know more about the German values and life.“
What are your findings about refugees’ attitudes and values towards Germany and German society?
Until now most of the Syrian women, as I mentioned before, were still living in refugee accommodations. This situation impedes them from understanding and exploring German society. It also sometimes gives them negative impressions about German values, since they meet relatively few Germans as security staff, administration and volunteers. Volunteers are the most lovable category for the Syrian women, since they help them, listen to them, and understand their needs as human beings and as women, more than others. Most of the women that I interviewed want to know more about the German values and life. And they are aware that Germany has strong legal rules that protect women on different levels. But they haven’t had the chance yet, to explore and benefit from it.
What do (female) refugees know about Germany before they come? What do they appreciate about Germany? What aspirations do they have?
Most of the women that I interviewed were seeking safety and dignity in Germany, and they were expecting this from German society. They appreciate that they are in a safe place now, and they know that in the near future, after finishing the languages courses and integration programmes, they can do what they want to do; learn, work…etc. But most of the women, especially in refugees accommodations, don’t feel that they are living in a dignified way, since they were expecting better living conditions, more privacy, and more care of them as women, by the German government and society.
How do refugees see the equal rights of men and women in Germany? How does is affect their (future) behavior?
Most of the Syrian women know that they have equal rights in Germany, and that it is not as it was in Syria. They are aware that they can decide what they want to do in the future, and that they can inform the police or other parties if they face domestic violence or sexual harassment. They are also aware that they can decide to get a divorce, if they want to. I have met many women who are starting to think of themselves as far away from the traditional norms and rules which control Syrian women’s life in Syria. They appreciate this about German society, and I think this can give them the space to decide what they want to be.
Nisren Habib ist Gastwissenschaftlerin am Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (WZB). Die gebürtige Syrerin und Stipendiatin der Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung forscht nach ihrem Diplom in Women’s Studies an der Beirut Arab University zu „Gender roles changes for Syrian women (refugees) in Germany/Berlin“.