Ayasha* is a Palestinian who fled to Germany when she was 18 years old. But not out of the Palestinian regions in Israel, rather form Jordan. During the Palestine War from 1947–49, roughly 750,000 Palestinians became refugees. Many of them fled to Jordan, Syria, or Lebanon. Since then there’s been a large population in these countries of Palestinians who are often still counted to the refugee population and are still considered to be stateless. Career, education, fashion, and free time – all of these aspects were limited in Ayasha's life while she lived in Jordan. She had barely any rights or freedoms. So, she and her family decided to flee.
Ayasha knows many Palestinians in Jordan who suffered and still suffer from the same issues she faced. “There, a woman doesn't have value”, says Ayasha, “a man, on the other hand, does”. Generally, people in Jordan don't like to see Palestinians out and about, whether man or woman. But women suffered even more than men, because they were seen as even more “worthless” than male refugees.
Girls and women like Ayasha are especially in danger when fleeing. It’s not uncommon for them to become victims of sexual assaults. Elaine Yousef, who works as an educator in a refugee shelter in Dortmund, takes particular care of women. “We try to clean them up and bring them to safety”, she says. Every Saturday they host a coffee hour for women. They crochet, knit, drink coffee, eat baked goods. It’s a good distraction and a good opportunity to stay busy.
Ayasha knows the dangers fleeing poses to girls and women. She talks about one incident that happened in Spain: Ayasha, along with her mother, sister, and brother, slept on the street for two days. One night, a few strange men tried to convince her to go with them. They asked her if she needed money. “Women travelling alone are often tricked because they don't know better”, says Ayasha. But despite this, she advises other women to brave the journey and flee.
In a refugee shelter in Dortmund, roughly ten people share a room at a time. Families aren't separated, because that would be irresponsible, says Elaine Yousef. “Single women live with their families. Single men, but also mothers with newborns, receive their own rooms.” Midwives are standby around the clock for pregnant women, and even visits to the authorities are taken care of. A lot of the work that goes into this is voluntary, and “everyone helps outside of their work hours”, says Yousef.
There isn't any violence in the shelters – not even among men. “The personnel here are diverse and there aren't any language barriers”, says Yousef. That makes conflict prevention easier. Even Ayasha noticed that at the shelter men and women are respectful to each other. And many women wind up developing friendships with each other over time. Above all, Ayasha wants to be able to freely express her mind. She was wants to be able to decide for herself what she wants to learn. She wasn't able to do that in Jordan. “But Germany isn't some paradise, rather it’s simply a country where there’s a sense of normalcy that should exist everywhere”, says Ayasha. Female refugees are welcome here, which is different than in Jordan. But eventually Ayasha wants to go back to Palestine, to her homeland.
*Names and locations were changed by the editors