Afghan Refugee Women’s Lived Experience in Pakistan
The present study aims to contribute, both empirically and theoretically, to the understanding of how media securitization affects Afghan women refugees’ lived experiences in Pakistan.
More than 50 million people have been forced by external factors to seek refuge in different countries across the world. Over the last five years, many conflicts have reignited and generated a global refugee crisis, raising the demand for humanitarian needs throughout the international community (Guterres, 2016). Recently, research on refugees and asylum seekers is gaining momentum, and media coverage of refugee issues became a topic of preponderant importance in academic discourse.
The perception of refugees and migrants is conceived as a threat that has made its way to the forefront. Subsequently, the securitization process of migrants is considered a contributing factor in creating a national security threat. All in all, illegal and unwanted migrants constitute a risk to the stability of a state. Hence, the national security agenda has been linked to policy measures against migrants. Moreover, transnational threats and war on terrorism were more closely associated with migration in western debates (Wohlfeld, 2014; Tallmeister, 2013).
The present study aims to contribute, both empirically and theoretically, to the understanding of how media securitization affects Afghan women refugee’s lived experiences in Pakistan. Additionally, based on feminist standpoint theory assumptions, semi-structured interviews with 10 Afghan refugees were conducted.
The analysis revealed that Pakistani media narratives designated Afghan refugees as an extreme security issue and presented them as existential threats to societal and national security. Guided by the feminist standpoint theory, analysis based on the interviews with 10 Afghan women refugees revealed that Afghan women have experienced numerous traumatic events, as refugees in Pakistan. Afghan refugee women are differently affected and seem to be more vulnerable to securitized migration. This situation poses the topic of insecurity that threatens women refugees according to their lived experience in Pakistan.
Despite different types of vulnerabilities, these women are mostly reluctant to talk about their experiences due to cultural and social pressures. Afghan women refugees in Pakistan don’t feel secure in Afghanistan and are unwilling to return. They are constrained to leave Pakistan, and at the same time, they feel insecure in Afghanistan.
Conflicts and wars pose major risks to people’s survival, livelihoods conditions, and human security (United Nations, 2003). Therefore, in this scenario, Afghan women vulnerability increases as a refugee during migration. Hence, becoming a refugee involves abrupt life changes. As a result of tragic experiences embracing their past, combined with problems in settling in a new country, refugee women often feel they are riding the waves of forces that they do not control.
The outcomes of the study were congruent with standpoint feminist theory that men and women have different experiences and that, women are more underprivileged. Findings from interviews with Afghan women refugees revealed that refugee experience is fraught with numerous challenges ranging from fear of repatriation to policing and isolation and desperation. Moreover, the theoretical framework of standpoint revealed a more objective form of knowledge and complete truths from the personal experiences of Afghan women refugees.
Significantly, the Feminist Standpoint approach has been most suitable to analyze the Afghan women refugee’s case from minority cultures in Pakistan. Researchers argue that feminist standpoint theory provides grounds to commence theorizing about the lives of women. There has been a securitization of Afghan refugees, as a result of which refugees are viewed and described in terms of security and face intolerable levels of hardships regarding employment, equal opportunities in Pakistan. Characterizing Afghan refugees as a security issue and a potential threat will have negative implications for the Afghan women refugee’s lived experience in Pakistan, and this has been revealed through the conducted interview sessions.