At the International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID), Doaa participated in a symposium focused on exploring the topics most challenging for young refugees. This Chatham House Rule session featured a variety of speakers who were invited to discuss their primary issues of concern in adapting to life in a new country.
While some attendees were expecting the young refugees to mention factors such as learning a new language, coping cross-culturally or finding gainful employment, the conversation inevitably centered on a different topic: family separation.
The United Nations Higher Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) notes that Syria’s ongoing conflict has torn apart countless families: “Entire communities have been uprooted, scattering large populations within Syria and driving over 2 million into surrounding countries. Children have been particularly affected, many of them becoming refugees, some separated from one or both parents and sometimes with no adult caregiver at all.”
The resulting breakdown in family structure has multiple impacts on youth, ranging from economic hardship to psychological trauma.
A primary burden for refugees is perpetual fear for the safety of loved ones remaining in situations of danger. As one young person at the KAICIID symposium noted: “All of my family is stuck in a city with the Turkish army attacking, leaving my family with no place to escape. I fear for my family’s death if they stay in the city or if they try to go to the regime held areas.”
Another participant said: “I’m extremely worried about my family. I don’t know if I will see them in the future or not, or if they will be safe or not!”
A special challenge for those refugees who express their views openly is the potential for related persecution of their loved ones. One speaker who had narrowly avoided being arrested in Syria due to her political activities said, “I am always worried about my family because my current peace-oriented activities could affect them.” Another noted that “advocating for peace and refugees have put me and my family under the radar and led to many death threats for my father and I.”
I’m extremely worried about my family. I don’t know if I will see them in the future or not or they will be safe or not!-Symposium participant
As far as Doaa’s situation, while she was reunited with some of her family members in Sweden (thanks to the resettlement program of UNHCR) she hasn’t seen her other siblings for many years. Remaining separated from her family members, who are scattered in different countries and often living in situations of great hardship, is of profound concern to her.
The International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID) is an inter-governmental organization that promotes interreligious dialogue “to support conflict prevention and resolution, sustainable peace and social cohesion; to promote mutual respect and understanding among different religious and cultural groups; and to counteract the abuse of religion to justify oppression, violence and conflict.”