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Invisible Women: Syrian Victims of Gender-Based Violence as a Particular Social Group in U.S. Asylum Law
Conference: Joint Convening of the Social Practice of Human Rights 2023 and the 6th International Conference on the Right to Development
  • Sarah Dávila-Ruhaak, John Marshall Law School
Start Date
11-9-2017 10:30 AM
  • conflict,
  • mass displacement,
  • refugee,
  • inequality,
  • exploitation

In the midst of the worst humanitarian crisis of our time, in Syria, we have seen extreme suffering by millions who have been summarily executed, tortured, imprisoned, raped, starved, and bombed with chemical weapons. Specifically, we have seen that women have been the target of gender-based violence in the conflict by and with the acquiescence of the Assad regime forces and by opposition groups.

Women have been human shields; hostages for the bargaining of prisoner release; and victims of sexual violence and exploitation, forced marriage, and other forms of violence such as honor killings.

This gender-based violence has rendered women vulnerable in Syria and other countries where they are refugees.

Asylum law in the United States protects persons who meet the definition of a refugee, have suffered persecution, or fear future persecution. One basis for asylum can be “particular social group,” which is generally understood as an identifiable group of people who share a common experience or characteristics that are fundamental to their identities as members of that group.

This article seeks to further the argument that Syrian women who have been victims of violence or are likely to be victimized by gender-based violence should be considered a “particular social group” for purposes of U.S. asylum law. They have been consistently targeted in the conflict and share the common experience of being victimized for their gender.

Citation Information
Sarah Dávila-Ruhaak. "Invisible Women: Syrian Victims of Gender-Based Violence as a Particular Social Group in U.S. Asylum Law" (2017)
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