In some ways, Sara Yusuf considers herself lucky, she says, sitting on a foldout chair in a clean, spare room with chipped white tiles. She left her home in Ghouta in western Syria in the summer of 2013 with her mother, sister, and two children. Less than a month after they left, the Syrian government struck Ghouta with rockets containing the nerve agent sarin. Hundreds of people—estimates range from 280 to 1,700—died violent and painful deaths. “I think God was protecting us,” says Sara, who now lives in Jordan.

In other ways, she doesn’t feel lucky at all. In 2012, her husband went missing. Sara still doesn’t know whether he is alive or dead. Mohammed (not his real name) was a low-ranking government employee. They had married young—Sara, who is 28 now, was just 18 and barely out of school. When the Syrian...

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