On some evenings when I visit Hanadi and Etab, a few more women come and gather in their small room. There are no seats so I sit on Hanadi’s bed. While women start sharing the latest gossip at the camp, I lean back on the pillow and listen in.
Two German police cars were there yesterday. They dragged a Syrian man out of the camp. His young wife, carrying her few months old baby on her arms, stayed in her room crying. People on the third floor often hear her crying. They also hear the violent threats of her husband. Sometimes, him beating her too. Until one day the young woman’s weeping reached Magdolina, the camp supervisor.
She called them both to her office, Etab tells me. The husband denied any wrongdoing, while the wife stood there silent. Sensing intimidation, Magdolina asks the man to leave the room. The two women are all alone now. Magdolina, in a gesture of care and trust, places her hand on the wife’s shoulder. Feeling safe, the wife spills out her owes. A few days right after she gave birth at the camp, her husband attacked her viciously, bursting with anger. Why? perhaps she added two spoons of sugar to his cup of tea that morning instead of three. A very short while after, and much to my amusement, the abusive husband was taken away and imprisoned.
She is not alone, the women gasped. Screams and cries are heard often at every floor. Women are belittled, humiliated, and physically abused by their husbands or even sons.
Now, however, men have lost their life-long impunity which they enjoyed back in Syria as in every other Arab country. In Germany, where laws strictly prohibit domestic violence, Syrian women have the power to stand up for themselves. They also feel the need to remind their husbands every now and then of prison in case they misbehave.
I also heard stories of Syrian women who divorced their husbands at the moment of arrival in Germany. Hanadi laughs when she mentions that woman who reported her husband to the police a few minutes after she landed at the airport.
None of these stories surprise me, really. But, admittedly , I exhibit a special sense of euphoria when I hear such endings. Ending their impunity is a triumph to me.