BEIRUT: The case of a Syrian man who was arrested Tuesday for strangling his 8-month-old son because he was crying reflects the desperate plight of refugees, UNICEF’s spokesperson said.
According to security sources refugee Hasan Ayesh strangled his son late Monday in his home in Minyara, in the northern province of Akkar, reportedly because the boy wouldn’t stop crying.
Ayesh then buried his son near their home, thinking that he might get away with the crime, the sources told The Daily Star.
The neighbors, who witnessed Ayesh burying his son’s body, reported it to police, who later arrested him outside a shop in the northern town of Kousha.
“This reflects the desperation of refugees,” U.N. Children’s Fund spokesperson Soha Boustani said when The Daily Star recounted the case. Neither the UNICEF spokesperson, nor those of UNHCR and Save the Children had prior knowledge of Ayesh, or that he was a refugee.
Boustani did say that instances of domestic violence among Syrian refugee families were on the rise, and pointed to long-drawn-out exile coupled with unbearable living conditions as factors to explain the trend.
“According to what I see and hear when out on the field, domestic violence is increasing for many different reasons,” she said. Among them are insufferable living conditions, often in cramped quarters, and the inability of most men – culturally considered to be the breadwinners in the family – to find work and secure basic needs.
“I’ve spoken to [Syrian refugee] women who tell me ‘I don’t recognize my husband, he’s not the same man he was in Syria.’”
As for gaining access to abusive households, Boustani said that due to widespread dispersion of refugees – about 880,000 registered according to recent figures – across Lebanon it was not logistically feasible to protect every refugee child.
NGOs often have to build trust over time with a given refugee community before neighbors and victims feel comfortable approaching social workers about abuse cases.
“This is typically how we get to know about cases of such children,” Boustani said.