Solidarites International

Diala Brisly is a very engaged women and artist. When she joined the project, she immediately seized upon a theme that she found particularly important: the issue of male-female relationships among Syrian refugee families in Lebanon.

For her, a Syrian citizen and first-hand witness to the crisis in Syria, Turkey, and Lebanon, a rift has developed between men and women within a large number of Syrian families. She feels this is due both to the refugee condition and paradoxically, to some NGOs projects that often treat men and women unequally.

Diala explains “Since the beginning of the crisis, a lot of associations have enthusiastically funded projects intended to empower women. This is a great idea, but simply, these programs are implemented to the detriment of the men, who also suffer from extreme pressures associated with their refugee status. This is what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the familial disruption that has happened in some Syrian families, whether or not they have been assisted by humanitarian organizations.”

Indeed, in traditional Arab society, the man is the family pillar, the head of the family and the primary provider. When fleeing Syria, many families have been broken up with men remaining there while women sought refuge in Lebanon with their children. Once “settled” women and children have had to work in order to meet their basic needs. Even arriving together, the situation proved to be equally difficult as work was forbidden for men unless they agreed to give up their refugee status (and thus, the right to humanitarian assistance). As restrictions upon freedom of movement and legal employment steadily increased, the men have slowly lost their traditional status as the family provider. The negative impact upon the family standing and reputation has led to an increased burden upon their shoulders and left many feeling helpless.

By contrast, women have found it easier to circulate and therefore have had greater access to work opportunities. As a consequence, some have begun to reverse traditional structures by becoming the primary wage earner for the household. Furthermore, many women have gained strength due to gender targeted humanitarian support men have been excluded and humiliated, creating further tension within the family.

Diala’s philosophy is straightforward: “I want to show that we cannot give more power to the women without including the men, so that everyone can find their place and families can emerge from this vulnerable situation stronger. I would like to see couples work together and not one against the other. Because there are so many beautiful stories to tell. There are so many loving couples who want to build a future together, why should they be prevented because they are refugees?”

Diala has met numerous couples during her visit in the field and has drawn inspiration from their stories to contribute to the fictional graphic novel. Each character is inspired by personal contact and the stories are put together to convey pertinent messages through the medium of comics.