Altered social trajectories and risks of violence among young Syrian women seeking refuge in Turkey: a qualitative study

BMC Womens Health. 2019 Jan 10;19(1):9. doi: 10.1186/s12905-019-0710-9.


Background: There is limited evidence regarding the ways in which displacement disrupts social norms, expectations and trajectories for adolescent girls and young women and the resulting impacts on their risks of violence. This knowledge gap is especially marked with regards to Syrian adolescent girls and young women seeking refuge in Turkey. We explored risks of gender-based violence against Syrian adolescent girls and young women in Turkey and examined how these risks were shaped by their displacement.

Methods: Data were collected in August 2016 in Izmir, Turkey through five sex-specific focus group discussions with Syrian adolescents and young people (aged 15-25 years) and two mixed gender focus group discussions with Syrian adults (18 years and older). Group discussions covered the issues facing Syrian adolescents and young women in Turkey, and how these were influenced by their displacement. Discussions in Arabic were audio-recorded, transcribed and translated into English. Data were coded inductively, and analysed thematically.

Results: Syrian adolescent girls and young women expressed an increased sense of vulnerability to violence since their displacement. Due to financial strains and limited educational opportunities, they were often encouraged by parents to work or marry, both of which they perceived to increase the risks of violence. In contrast, some adults suggested that marriage could protect adolescent girls and young women from risks of violence associated with working. Being alone outside the home was viewed as risky by all participants due to pervasive sexual, verbal and physical harassment, aggression, and even kidnapping attempts. To limit these risks, many parents reported keeping adolescent girls and young women at home, or ensuring that they were accompanied by male relatives when in public.

Conclusions: Syrian adolescent girls and young women face multiple risks of violence following displacement related to altered social trajectories. Some family-based strategies to protect young women from violence could reinforce restrictive gender norms and increase risks of violence. Interventions to address violence should include providing safe spaces, access to education and safe transport for young women, and financial support for families as well as community-based interventions to address the daily risks of sexual harassment in public spaces.

Keywords: Adolescent; Gender-based violence; Qualitative; Refugee; Syria; Turkey.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health / ethnology*
  • Crime Victims / psychology
  • Crime Victims / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Qualitative Research
  • Refugees / psychology*
  • Refugees / statistics & numerical data
  • Sexual Behavior / ethnology*
  • Syria / ethnology
  • Turkey / epidemiology
  • Women's Health / ethnology*
  • Young Adult