Mar 12, 2014
Syrian Refugee Girls Married Off for Protection
Posted on Nov 12, 2013
Though it is common for Syrian children to be married before 18, displacement has made marriage take on a new urgency. With rumors of rape and kidnapping roaming Syrian refugee camps, families often believe the best option for their girls is to be wed as soon as possible.
In one such camp in Zaatari, Jordan, many teenagers celebrate their nuptials despite a Jordanian law prohibiting the union for those under the age of 15. But Zaatari refugees are exempt from having to obtain their host country’s permission for a wedding. Even so, many young ones are married before their arrival in Jordan. Although the girls are never given a choice in the matter, nor asked whether their families forced them into the arrangement, many believe the true danger does not lie in early marriages but rather in foreign suitors. One case, recently reported by Inter Press Service in the same refugee camp this month, tells of Amani, a woman who sold her sister for $300 to a Saudi suitor in order to sustain her family of 10. “I have seen Jordanians, Egyptians and Saudis passing by the tents in search of a virgin to take along,” said Amani. “They pay 300 dollars, and they get the girl of their dreams. ... I knew she wasn’t in love, but I also knew that he would take care of her. I would have sold myself, but Amara was the only virgin in our family. We had to sell her, in order to allow the rest of us to survive. What else could I do?”
Sheikh Hussin, who’s performed as many as 30 ceremonies since his arrival in Zaatari just 10 months ago, tells Al-Jazeera English about the danger of “unknown men from outside the camp” marrying Syrian girls:
Meanwhile, every day men from inside and outside the camp wander the main road in Zaatari (nicknamed “Champs Elysées”) in search of a wife as girls prepare for their arranged nuptials in bridal shops on the same street.
—Posted by Natasha Hakimi
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