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Refugee organizations discuss violence against women

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Ibtisam Al-Aseery Published:02-01-2012

ADEN, Jan. 1 — To raise awareness about violence against women, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) held a 16-day campaign to combat violence against women in Basateen, Aden, South Yemen, last month.

Coinciding with the international days for HIV, the disabled, and human rights, the event brought together up to 250 participants. They discussed domestic violence and abuse against women and children in the community, notably during their crossover to Yemen fleeing armed conflict in the Horn of Africa, including beatings, starvation, or rape at the hand of smugglers.

The motto of the campaign of this year was “Peace, from the house to the world.”

More than 30,000 refugees mainly Somais live in the Basateen area in the southern port city, besides those in the camp of Kharaz, a home to refugees for 20 years. Difficult living conditions have increased cases of domestic violence among the community, especially after residents fled to Aden from the neighbouring governorate of Abyan following clashes with armed Islamists affiliated to Al Qaeda there.

Refugees and members of organizations working with them discussed female genital mutilation, protection against HIV / Aids, domestic violence, violence against children, and human trafficking. The campaign included an open day for refugees to paint their dreams, and the screening of three documentary films on violence against children.

Participants put forward recommendations to reduce domestic violence in the refugee community specially in Basateen, including issuing the Refugees Law, supporting the local police station to help victims of violence, and giving as much care to refugees living in houses in the area as those in the local camps.

A performance was organized for the Somali Disabled Association. Three plays called A Female Shout, Female Circumcision, and Family Planning closed the events, while a photography exhibition was shown throughout.

Up to 368 cases of violence and 142 cases of domestic violence were recorded this year, according to Aisha Saeed, UNHCR Community Service National Officer in Aden. She highlighted the importance of raising awareness to reduce domestic violence in the community.

She added that more than 167 countries and 3,700 organizations have participated in International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women since 1991 to combat all forms of violence against women, to push civil society to uphold security, peace, and human rights, and to enhance participation with government and civil society organizations working to better the lives of refugees.

Of the estimated over 300,000 refugees in Yemen, 200, 491 are Somalis and the rest are other nationalities, including Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Iraqi.

Of the 84,656 refugees who arrived Yemen between January and October 2011, 188 were returned home and 419 were resettled to third countries, according to the UNHCR.