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Gendered Vulnerabilities: Assessing the Deservingness of Refugee Women in Turkey

Wednesday, November 14, 2018, 5:15 pm – 6:30 pm

This research aims to examine how refugee women under international protection of UNHCR living in satellite cities of Turkey have access to social and financial aid schemes. According to the geographic limitation on the 1951 Geneva Convention, Turkey only accepts refugees from Europe, and asylum seekers from other countries such as Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and African countries –conditional refugees under temporary protection of UNHCR- are allowed to reside in cities, called satellite cities, until their resettlement to a third country. As these cities are relatively less developed cities of Turkey, they present very limited options in terms of socio-economic integration and refugees’ access to labor market. As a result, particular groups generally defined as ‘vulnerable groups’ with no sustainable income become dependent on the financial aid and donations that they receive from the State, UNHCR and migrant NGO’s. All these different schemes of financial aid, while an important source of income for refugees, still apply a canonic understanding on refugeeness and categories of vulnerability. I argue that this system of economic dependency and vulnerability assessment put refugees in a situation where they have to present themselves as ‘the ideal deserving subjects’. As Malkkii (1995) suggests, the depiction of ‘refugeeness' as vulnerable and helpless in humanitarian discourses reinforces the representation of refugees as being in need of rescue and protection. The refugee has been essentialized, if not fetishized, as the ultimate victim whose vulnerability makes him/her deserving of help and protection, and the perfect object of humanitarian politics and discourses. The concepts of ultimate victim and ideal deserving subject are not only highly subjective or even arbitrary, but also based on gendered and racialized assumptions.

Meriç Çağlar is a P.h.D. in Gender Studies at CEU. Her research focuses on Migration and Gender Issues.