Eritrean women asylum seekers in Israel: From a politics of rescue to feminist accountability

Habtom M. Ghebrezghiabher, Pnina Motzafi-Haller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

Despite acclaimed gender equality during the struggle for liberation and post independence in their country, the entrenched system of gender-based inequality has forced many Eritrean women to flee their country. On their difficult flight and during their journey, Eritrean women were exposed to blackmail, sexual abuse and rape. Those who made it through the difficult journey sought asylum in Israel but have not been able to escape gender violation and discrimination in their host state. This article traces the experience of Eritrean woman asylum seekers in Israel from the moment of their escape from Eritrea, through their torturous journey and after their entry into a state that refuses to consider their right to refugee status. Data were obtained using in-depth interviews with women asylum seekers in Israel, records of radio interviews and Paltalk discussions in the Tigrigna language, and close reading of unpublished reports by human rights activists and of Hebrew-language Israeli newspapers. Analysis of these diverse bodies of data reveals that gender is largely ignored by the few scholars who attempted to document the Eritrean asylum seekers experience in Israel. Drawing on post-colonial feminist Canadian scholar Sherene Razack (1999), who urges us to develop 'a more political understanding of why women flee', we examine here the experience of Eritrean women asylum seekers in Israel within a critical feminist analytical framework that documents their agency within changing historical and political circumstances and forces. We use this larger historically specific framework to disengage from the trope of 'pity and rescue' and offer instead a critical examination of how Eritrean women act as agents from the moment they decide to flee their country and until they settle in Israel.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberfev006
Pages (from-to)570-594
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Refugee Studies
Volume28
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2015

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