Syrian Refugee Stories of Torture: Ethical Dilemmas for Interviews and Writing


As a student preparing for my first foray into the field, I questioned my ability to conduct research and my right to inquire into the lives of others. In this case study, I reflect upon my first experience of fieldwork conducted in 2015. The focus of my research was Syrian refugee students in Sweden, their reasons for leaving Syria, their journey to Sweden, and their initial experiences on arrival. I take as my focus one interview where my interlocutor told a disturbing story about unlawful imprisonment and torture by the Syrian regime. This situation posed several ethical questions that are worth further reflection. In particular, I will consider the type of questions one can ethically ask in response to such disclosures and if a truth-value needs to be assigned to such accounts, which could be told in order for the interlocutor to meet the criteria of a certain category, such as refugee. Furthermore, I will consider if the notion of “informed consent” ought to be understood as entailing that research participant’s fully understand how the material will be used. Although interlocutors are aware of and agree with the research being conducted, it can be hard to foresee the implications that their stories might have at a later stage, if not for them then for others.

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