How the Media Agenda Contributes to Cultivating Symbolic Annihilation and Gender-Based Stigmatization Frames for Syrian Refugee Women

Yasmin Aldamen [1]

DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.10291208


[1] New Media and Communication Department, School of Communication, Ibn Haldun University, Istanbul 34480, Turkey;


The Syrian refugee crisis has been ongoing since 2011, with millions of people being forced to flee their homes due to the devastating war. This has resulted in one of the largest humanitarian crises of our time, with many refugees seeking a better life and safety in other countries. The issue of the Syrian refugee crisis has been a widely debated topic in media and politics, but the focus on the representation of Syrian refugee women in various media outlets is a concerning issue. Syrian refugee women have suffered from several social challenges in the host countries, including negative portrayals, stereotyping, and frames in the media. Not only do these negative portrayals perpetuate stereotypes, but they also marginalize an already vulnerable group, overlook the unique challenges and contributions of Syrian refugee women in the host communities, and contribute to the symbolic annihilation of Syrian refugee women. The media play a role in informing the public about what and how to think about a particular issue through the way or frame in which it is presented. This media framing process plays a significant role in presenting populist governments, symbolic elites, and a media agenda that aims to cultivate public opinion with certain ideas and impressions. Based on the theoretical understanding of media framing theory, this study presents how Syrian refugee women see their image represented in the media.  A quantitative approach was used to collect the data by conducting focus group discussions with a number of Syrian refugees. The findings showed that there was a common insight among the participants that Syrian refugee women are framed negatively in a collective representation of humiliation and dehumanization. The participants see that the media representations of Syrian refugee women have often been reductive and stigmatizing in certain frames. Furthermore, their image in the media is not normalized or presented in a positive way that shows that every woman has an individual story. However, they see that the Syrian refugee woman’s image is stigmatized in certain frames related to gender-based issues. Thus, this stigmatization is cultivated by repeated negative frames, mainly victimization and demonization ones.

Keywords: Syrian refugee women, migration, Syrian crisis, SGBV, media framing, stigmatization, victimization, demonization, symbolic annihilation, negative representation, cultivation theory.


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