Academic journal article Refuge

Refugees from Inside the System: Iraqi Divorcees in Jordan

Academic journal article Refuge

Refugees from Inside the System: Iraqi Divorcees in Jordan

Article excerpt


Based on fieldwork with Iraqi women who married and then divorced Jordanian men and are now registered refugees in Jordan, this study explores the relationship between marriage and immigration laws and refugee status for Iraqis in the country. The legal systems effectively fence the divorced women in, with child custody laws preventing them from leaving and citizenship laws preventing them from securing long-term residency. Jordan's citizenship and immigration laws collude with family law traditions that assume women's dependence on their husbands to magnify divorced Iraqi women's social exclusion. As Iraqi refugees extend their stays in the country, Jordan's "guests" and their needs have become part of the domestic social landscape; structural refusal to acknowledge their presence contributes to their isolation and invisibility. This case suggests that citizenship laws that differentiate between men and women create gendered refugees as well as gendered citizens.


Cet article repose sur une etude de terrain effectuee aupres de femmes irakiennes qui se sont mariees avec des Jordaniens, qui se sont ensuite divorcees, et qui sont maintenant enregistrees en Jordanie en tant que refugiees. L'article explore les relations entre les lois du mariage et de l'immigration et le statut de refugie dans le cas de ces Irakiennes. Le systeme legal jordanien limite effectivement les femmes divorcees, puisque les lois sur la garde des enfants les empechent de quitter la Jordanie, tandis que les lois sur l'immigration et la citoyennete les empechent d'obtenir un droit de residence a long terme. Ces lois jordaniennes sur l'immigration et la citoyennete fusionnent avec la tradition des lois sur la famille impliquant la dependance de la femme envers son mari, et ainsi renforcent l'exclusion sociale des femmes irakiennes divorcees. Alors que les refugies irakiens prolongent leur sejour en Jordanie, ces visiteurs et leurs besoins specifiques deviennent une partie constituante du paysage social du pays. Toutefois, le refus structurel de prendre en compte leur presence contribue a leur isolement et leur invisibilite. Cette problematique suggere que les lois sur la citoyennete faisant la difference entre les hommes et les femmes creent des categories differentes de refugies basees sur le sexe, tout comme elles creent des categories differentes de citoyens basees sur le sexe.

Universally Different: The Refugee in the Eyes of the State

In 1943, Hannah Arendt described the refugee experience as one of confusion. "The less we are free to decide who we are and to live as we like, the more we try to put up a front, to hide the facts, and to play roles ... It is the same story all over the world, again and again," she wrote. (1) Her writing addresses the experiences of European Jews displaced in World War II, but her observations are relevant for many current accounts of the upheaval that refugees experience.

Studies that focus on refugees' experiences also show that displacement demands adaptations in numerous facets of social life, and that this process has an emotional dimension. (2) The "same story" that Arendt refers to is not that which precedes displacement, but that which follows it: the individual being plunged into an unfamiliar environment that then shapes her way of life. Arendt argues that simply being labelled a refugee implies that other identifying details will be relegated to the background, both to the institutions charged with managing refugees and, consequently, for the displaced person himself as he goes about constructing normalcy in a new place. While this generalization makes it easier for host societies to regulate the refugee and his brethren, it can make it more difficult to integrate into the host society.

The nature of the regulations is different in every context, though, and while the progression of the story may be the same across locations, local policies define refugee communities in different ways and thus enable different sorts of livelihoods. …

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