Information on whether young Palestinian women crossing military checkpoints around Palestinian refugee camps have been sexually harassed or assaulted by Lebanese and Syrian soldiers [LBN26534.E]

Information on this subject is scarce.

The following information was provided during a 8 April 1997 telephone interview with a gender consultant currently working with USAID in Bethesba, Maryland, who specializes in women and development in the Middle East. In 1994 the source conducted field work with Palestinian families living in refugee camps for Save the Children.

The source stated that only Palestinian refugee camps south of Beyrouth are guarded by Lebanese and Syrian soldiers. The source added that Palestinian women, either alone or accompanied by other women, exit the camps during the course of their daily activities. As part of their duties Lebanese and Syrian soldiers can conduct body searches, including Palestinian women. Body searches on Palestinian women conducted by soldiers could be conducted to apply pressure on male family members. In the Middle Eastern context body searches of women by soldiers is a difficult experience that carries a stigma for the women and their families. The source stated that the presence of a male relative would not affect the soldiers' behaviour.

The source is not aware of Palestinian women being sexually assaulted by Lebanese and Syrian soldiers and indicated that it is not a systematic policy. However, the source speculated that such incidents do happen.

The source stated that it would be very difficult to seek redress for sexual harassment or sexual assault because of the associated stigma for the women and her family. The source added that although Lebanese and Syrian soldiers are in charge of protecting Palestinian refugees, including Palestinian women, it does not preclude them from breaking the law.

The following information was provided during a 9 April 1997 telephone interview with a woman activist at Beirut University College who is working to promote the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

The source did not have information on cases of sexual assault against Palestinian women by Lebanese and Syrian soldiers.

The source stated that other than gynaecologists, no group or organization deals exclusively with the problem of sexual assault in Lebanon. A Middle Eastern woman would not seek redress easely because of the shame associated with sexual assault for both her and her family.

For additional information on Palestinian women refugees in Lebanon, please consult the attached Fall-Summer 1995 article from Al-Raïda and the 27 September 1995 Master Degree thesis entitled Identity, Gender and Development in the Palestinian Diaspora: The Case of Palestinian Women Refugees in Lebanon, which is available at all Regional Documentation Centres.

This Response was prepared after reserching publicly accessible information currently available to the DIRB within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Consultant on gender issues in the Middle East, USAID, Bethesda, Maryland. 8 April 1997. Telephone interview.

Woman activist, Beirut University College, Lebanon. 9 April 1997. Telephone interview.


Al-Raida [Beyrouth]. Summer-Fall 1995. Vol. 12, Nos. 70-71. Maya Ayyoub. "Palestinian Women in Post-War Lebanon."

_____. Spring-Summer 1994. Vol. 11, Nos. 65-66. "A Choice Between Violence and the Family."

Additional Sources Consulted

Three oral sources consulted did not have information on this subject.

Online search of the Lexis-Nexis database.

Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS): 1983-1995.

Global Newsbank.


Middle East Sources

Al-Raida [Beirut]. Summer 1993 - . Quarterly.

Arabies [Paris]. January 1989 - . Monthly.

Arab Law Quarterly [London]. 1993 - . Quarterly.

Arab Studies Quarterly [Lake Forest, Ill.]. 1995 - . Quarterly.

Dialogue [London]. October 1993 - . Monthly.

Lebanon Report [Beirut]. November 1992 - . Monthly.

The Middle East [London]. November 1988 - . Monthly.

Middle East International [London]. January 1991 - . Bi-weekly.

Middle East Report [Washington]. September 1990 - . Bi-monthly.

Monde Arabe Maghreb-Machrek [Paris]. January 1989 - . Quarterly.

News From Middle East Watch [New York].

Women Sources

Freedom From Violence: Women's Strategies From Around the World. 1992.

The Human Rights Watch Global Report on Women's Human Rights. 1995.

Refugee Women. March 1994. DIRB.

Report on the World Social Situation. 1993. (Also available in French)

Women and Politics Worldwide. 1994.

Women's Lives and Public Policy: The International Experience. 1993.

Women's Movements of the World: An International Directory and Reference Guide. 1988.

The World's Women: Trends and Statistics. 1995. (Also available in French)


CAFRA News [Tunapuna, Trinidad and Tobago]. Biannual.

IWLD Bulletin [Washington]. February 1994.

WEP International Bulletin [Rotterdam]. Winter 1994 - . Quarterly.

WIN News [Lexington, MA]. Winter 1993 - . Quarterly.

Women's Commission News [New York]. January 1994 - . Three per year.

Women's Watch [Minneapolis]. July 1993 - . Three per year.