News & Politics

Vibrant Diversity: On 'Migrant' Trail, Some Men Rent Out Their Wives for Cash

Migrants wait to register with the police at a refugee center in the southern Serbian town of Presevo, Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

The New York Times puts this one out there:

One Syrian woman who joined the stream of migrants to Germany was forced to pay down her husband’s debt to smugglers by making herself available for sex along the way. Another was beaten unconscious by a Hungarian prison guard after refusing his advances.

A third, a former makeup artist, dressed as a boy and stopped washing to ward off the men in her group of refugees. Now in an emergency shelter in Berlin, she still sleeps in her clothes and, like several women here, pushes a cupboard in front of her door at night. “There is no lock or key or anything,” said Esraa al-Horani, the makeup artist and one of the few women here not afraid to give her name. She has been lucky, Ms. Horani said: “I’ve only been beaten and robbed.”

From forced marriages and sex trafficking to domestic abuse, women report violence from fellow refugees, smugglers, male family members and even European police officers. There are no reliable statistics for sexual and other abuse of female refugees.

No stereotypes here, no sirree bob. But more falafel stands are a good thing, and a small price to pay for vibrant diversity in a culture that didn’t need it, didn’t want it and didn’t ask for it. Right?

A 30-year-old Syrian mother of four fled the war with her family early last year. When her husband ran out of money to pay their smuggler in Bulgaria, he offered his wife as payment instead. For three months, she was raped almost daily to earn her family’s onward journey. Soon her own husband was abusing her, too. A “twisted logic,” Ms. Höhne said. “What her husband made her do ended up tainting his honor. She became the guilty party.”

The woman now has asylum and lives in Berlin with her children. Her husband, who lives elsewhere in Germany but has stalked her on the street in Berlin at least once, is under a restraining order. But she remains too terrified to provide even her first name, for fear of being killed by him or another relative over the perception that she brought “dishonor” to the family.

“Honor.” They keep using that word. I do not think it means what they think it means. But if this keeps up, it soon will.