Representative Jim Moran

Representing the 8th District of Virginia
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Moran, Democratic Lawmakers Press Sec. Clinton to Protect Syrian Refugee Women

Dec 21, 2012
Press Release

Washington, DC – Today, Congressman Jim Moran, Northern Virginia Democrat, and Democratic lawmakers, sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton applauding the State Department’s leadership in assisting two million Syrian refugees and calling on the U.S. to dedicate more funding, study, and multi-government coordinated care for vulnerable women and girls in conflict and refugee zones.

Joining Moran on the letter are Representatives John Conyers (D-MI), Howard Berman (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Bill Keating (D-MA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Rick Larsen (D-X), Ed Towns (D-X), Mike Honda (D-CA), Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), Sam Farr (D-CA), Jim McGovern (D-WA), Keith Ellison (D-MN), and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL).

“The Syria conflict presents so many challenges to the United States and our allies, but none are more urgent than the condition of women and girl refugees,” the lawmakers wrote. “We urge you to continue working with the UN and other humanitarian actors, host countries, and donor nations to ensure that Syrian women and girls are protected.”

Specifically, the lawmakers called on the State Department to:

•    Increase funding and emphasis for programs serving victims of gender based violence and that protect women and girls from exploitation and violence;
•    Conduct a time-sensitive assessment to collect data on women in refugee camps and non-camp settings;
•    Pressure host governments to ease refugee registration and provide free health services for women and girls; and
•    Partner with humanitarian organizations and actors to prevent trafficking and forced marriages.

The lawmakers continued: “Large numbers of Syrian women and girls have been forced to flee Syria in search of safety and help, but their situation in neighboring countries remains precarious. Where refugee camps exist, the conditions are often unsafe…outside of camps refugees are struggling to pay for housing, food and other basic needs…leading to early or forced marriages, survival sex and child labor.”

In its June 2012 report, Human Rights Watch detailed findings of sexual violence experienced by men, women, and boys in detention and of sexual abuse of women and girls as young as 12 during home raids and military sweeps of residential areas.

Full text of the letter to Secretary Clinton below:

The Honorable Hillary Clinton
Secretary of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington DC

Dear Secretary Clinton,

As Members of Congress concerned with the plight of victims of the conflict in Syria, and particularly with the vulnerable women and girls among them, we applaud your leadership in assisting displaced people around the world and your efforts to protect and empower women and girls. We appreciate the Department of State’s focus on the unique challenges facing women and girls in conflict zones in recent remarks to the UN refugee agency by Anne Richard, Assistant Secretary’s for Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

Women and girls are especially vulnerable to violence in displacement crises, and the Syrian conflict is not an exception. As the Syrian regime continues a brutal assault on its people, leaving to date some two million displaced, reports have emerged of horrific violence against women, including rape of pregnant women and children, often accompanied by other methods of torture. In its June 2012 report, Human Rights Watch detailed findings of sexual violence experienced by men, women, and boys in detention and of sexual abuse of women and girls as young as 12 during home raids and military sweeps of residential areas.

Large numbers of Syrian women and girls have been forced to flee Syria in search of safety and help, but their situation in neighboring countries remains precarious. Where refugee camps exist, the conditions are often unsafe, offering little privacy or spaces for women to gather. Outside of camps – where the overwhelming majority of Syrian refugees settle – refugees are struggling to pay for housing, food and other basic needs. The inability to earn enough to pay rent and buy necessities is increasingly leading to early or forced marriages, survival sex and child labor. Domestic violence in overcrowded spaces is not uncommon.

Your coordination with United Nations agencies has been exemplary, and we urge you to continue working with the UN and other humanitarian actors, host countries, and donor nations to ensure that Syrian women and girls are protected. This includes:

  • Increased funding and diplomatic emphasis for programs focused on protecting women and girls from exploitation and violence, and additional services needed to treat those who have been harmed. Currently, only 1 percent of the UN funding appeal for Syrian refugees is dedicated to services for survivors of gender-based violence.
  • Conducting in an urgent manner a comprehensive, women-focused assessment in refugee camps and in non-camp settings to help us better understand and address the needs.
  • Continued diplomatic pressure on host governments to remove obstacles that hinder women and girls from safely registering as refugees and accessing free, confidential health and survivor services, and partner with civil society and humanitarian actors to prevent early marriage and trafficking.


The Syria conflict presents so many challenges to the United States and our allies, but none are more urgent than the condition of women and girl refugees. We are grateful for your continued attention to this effort, and look forward to your response.
 
Sincerely,

James P. Moran
John Conyers Jr.
Raul M. Grijalva
Howard Berman
Rick Larsen
Barbara Lee
Edolphus Towns
Bill Keating
Mike Honda
James McGovern
Allyson Schwartz
Keith Ellison
Jim McDermott
Sam Farr
Jan Schakowsky
 



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