In Norway, asylum seekers take workshops on sexual violence

Wed Jan 20, 2016 11:51am EST
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By Gwladys Fouche

NAERBOE, Norway (Reuters) - A workshop that seeks to educate asylum-seekers in Norway about Western attitudes to sex and sexual assault will appeal to European neighbors struggling to cope with a wave of refugees, but not everyone who attends the course is a fan.

Sitting with his arms crossed in a classroom with 21 other male Syrian asylum seekers, Issam Alhlabi is wondering why he has been compelled to attend.

"I know all this already from back home," the 52-year-old teacher from Aleppo told Reuters.

"Syria is like Norway ... In every country you have backward people with low education."

The ultimate aim of the course is to discuss - and discourage - rape in the context of a Scandinavian society that is more sexually liberal than back home.

But for at least a few of the attendees, it exposes implied preconceptions about the sexual mores of those in the class, not to mention their views on violent crimes like rape.

"It is unexpectedly interesting: that most people think we did not experience such things, because we are outsiders, foreigners," commercial airline pilot Muaz, 26, told Reuters.

"We go through them every single day in our country. I have two sisters and they could be harassed walking anywhere in the world," said Muaz, who declined to give his last name.   Continued...

Syrian commercial airline pilot Muaz, who declined to give his last name, poses for a picture as he attends a one-day course to prevent sexual violence at a reception centre for asylum-seekers in Naerboe, Norway, January 19, 2016. REUTERS/Gwladys Fouche