Citation: 2022 RLLR 9
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: May 11, 2022
Panel: Kay Scorer
Counsel for the Claimant(s): Salema Hage
RPD Number: VC2-00062
Associated RPD Number(s): N/A
ATIP Number: A-2022-01960
ATIP Pages: N/A
 MEMBER: I’ve considered your testimony and the other evidence before me and I’m prepared to provide you with my decision orally.
 This is the decision of the Refugee Protection Division in the claim of XXXX XXXX as a citizen of Syria who is claiming protection pursuant to Sections 96 and 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act also referred to as the Act.
 In rendering my reasons and also in the conduct of the hearing, I’ve considered and applied the Chairperson’s Guideline on claims relating to a woman’s gender.
 The claimant’s full allegations are contained in her Basis of Claim form and in her testimony at the hearing. Summarized only briefly, the claimant is an elderly Sunni widowed woman from Syria. She fears risk of persecution in Syria on the basis of her gender as a woman. All of her children reside outside of the country and she has no immediate family remaining in the country apart from a sister-in-law who is also an elderly woman. She fears being targeted as a vulnerable elder woman. The claimant also fears persecution on the basis of her religion as Sunni and her political opinion.
 I find the claimant is a Convention refugee pursuant to Section 96 of the Act. I find the claimant has established a nexus to Convention grounds of membership in a particular social group as a woman and religion as Sunni. It’s the intersections of these identities where I find the claimant faces a risk in Syria.
 The claimant’s identity is established on a balance of probabilities by her testimony and by the copy of her Syrian passport in Exhibit 1.
 In refugee determination claims, there is a presumption that the claimants and their allegations are true. In this case, I find no reason to doubt the claimant’s truthfulness. The claimant testified in a forthcoming and spontaneous manner.
 The claimant is an 80 year old woman and despite obvious frailties, I found that she testified in a clear and compelling manner. There were no material inconsistencies or contradictions between her Basis of Claim form, her testimony, and the other evidence before me.
 The claimant was also able to support her claim with some documentary evidence all of which can be found in Exhibits 4 through 6 which includes identity documents and a copy of her late husband’s death certificate. I have no reason to doubt the authenticity of these documents and I assign them weight as they corroborate the material elements or the claimant’s allegations, namely the fact that she is an elderly widowed woman from Syria. I find the claimant has established on a balance of probabilities that she is an elderly Sunni widowed Syrian woman who fears persecution by the state on the basis of her gender as a woman, her political opinion, and her religion as a Sunni Muslim. I find the claimant has established her subjective fears.
WELL-FOUNDED FEAR OF PERSECUTION
 The objective evidence supports the claimant’s fears of returning to Syria, My reasons for this are as follows: The documents in the NDP, for example, at items 5.1, 5.2, and 5.3 indicate that gender-based violence against women and children is pervasive in Syria and it has increased due to the conflict. Rape and sexual violence are endemic, underreported, and uncontrolled and are used to terrorize women, men and children perceived to support the opposition. Regime officials perpetrated gender-based violence with impunity. Government forces have perpetrated rape and sexual abuse of women. When women try to file police reports, the police often do not investigate thoroughly if at all and sometimes responded themselves with abusing women. The risk of gender-based violence is exacerbated in this case because the claimant is an elderly widowed woman. The country evidence before me confirms that women with particularly vulnerable profiles including widowed women like the claimant herself, face a higher risk of gender-based violence.
 At NDP item 5.1 of the NDP, it states that widowed women face a heightened risk of sexual exploitation and are highly stigmatized by the Syrian society. The combination of being both female and Sunni adds a further dimension of risk in this case.
 According to NDP item 1.12, Sunnis are often targeted by the regime due to a perceived anti-government opinion and arrests may be based merely on a person having resided in an area associated with the opposition or associated with Sunni communities.
 Item 5.2 states that sexual violence against women has been used as a tactic in the war and has an integral part to the regime policy of subjugation of the opposition. The regime has framed the conflict as a fight between Alawites and Sunnis instead of a struggle for democracy. This government’s antagonism towards Sunnis in particular has led to sexual violence against Sunni women. Ultimately I found the country evidence before me does establish that Sunni elderly widowed women face a serious possibility of persecution in Syria on the basis of their religion and their gender. I find the claimant’s subjective fears are therefore objectively well-founded.
 Except in situations where a state is in complete breakdown, states are presumed capable of protecting their citizens. In this case, the primary agent of persecution is the state and the persecution the claimant would face if returned to Syria is at the hands of the authorities. Accordingly, I find there is no state protection available to the claimant.
INTERNAL FLIGHT ALTERNATIVE
 Further, the state of Syria is the agent of harm and it is in control of most of its territories. Where it is not in control, other armed groups as discussed posed a threat to women such as the claimant herself. Ultimately the claimant faces a serious possibility of persecution as an elderly woman without family support in all parts of Syria. I therefore find there is no Internal Flight Alternative available to this claimant.
 For the foregoing reasons, I find the claimant is a Convention refugee under Section 96 of the Act and I therefore accept her claim.
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