The Christian women left behind after another war: Syria

Open Doors is providing vocational training to women in Syria so that they can find a job and provide for themselves in the long term.(Photo: Open Doors)

Every single day, a young Christian mum, Elham, waits in a long queue in her hometown, Aleppo, to buy the little bread she's entitled to with her quota. Then, she joins another queue, to buy fuel to cook for her little children, as they get only two hours of electricity a day. Next, Elham needs to carry the gasoline cylinder, weighing 40 kilograms, to her home, all alone.

That is a typical daily life episode of Syria's women who have been left behind by their husbands who either died in the civil war or fled the country for a better life, without them, and never came back.

For these women, International Women's Day is much the same as any other: queueing for hours for food and wondering where next they can move after they are evicted, because they cannot pay the rent.

How do Elham and other Christian single mothers survive in a country devastated by the 10-year war? The very limited support that the Syrian government provides goes to only those women whose husbands died in the war fighting for the Syrian Armed Forces.

For those who do not receive it, life is a daily challenge, explains Nour, a local partner of the Christian anti-persecution charity Open Doors, based in Aleppo.

The main source of support for Christian women is the Church in Syria, which provides the essentials for their survival, she says.

"There are many internally displaced women in Syria at the moment. They had to run to safer places during the war and every time they had to start all over again, often on their own with no support," says Nour.

"Especially those who came to Aleppo from the north, they arrived just with only the clothes they were wearing, nothing else."

Some of the men, Nour explains, fled Syria because of refusing to fight for the government forces when the civil war started in March 2011.

Many of them sold their properties to fund their escape to safer countries which left their families homeless, with the promise that they would eventually reunite. Their wives had to fend for themselves.

With no man in the family, single mothers have accepted the reality of being the breadwinner. If they do any job, the typical monthly salary is around $50 and 20 per cent of it is spent on bread alone.

"With high inflation, everything is so expensive. Some women are not able to wait in the long queues for hours because they need to look after their children, and so they have to buy fuel, for example, from the black market and it's very, very expensive," says Nour.

Open Doors' local partners reach out to these "left behind" Christian women with food, clothes, furniture, rental fees as well as vocational training for them to be able to find a job and sustain themselves in the long-term future.

"These women have nothing of what they used to have," Nour says.

"Our main focus is how to equip them to become independent and build their future for themselves and their children."

Open Doors UK & Ireland is part of Open Doors International, a global NGO network which has supported and strengthened persecuted Christians for over 60 years and works in over 60 countries. Open Doors provides practical support to persecuted Christians such as food, medicines, trauma care, legal assistance, safe houses and schools, as well as spiritual support through Christian literature, training and resources.