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Arab World: The Plight of Syrian Refugee Girls

This post is part of our special coverage Syria Protests 2011/12.

As the Syrian Revolution continues, its consequences continue to effect refugees who have fled the violence in the country, especially women who are paying a double price as victims of violence in these armed conflicts. In a patriarchal and male chauvinist culture that constantly abuses the weakness of the woman for its own interests, Syrian refugee girls in Jordan, Libya, Turkey and Lebanon are subject to the pressures of forced marriages from Syrian or other Arab nationals under the pretext of protecting their virtue at any price.

Within this context, news on Syrian refugee girls forced marriages or even campaigns to marry them off to “protect their virtue” have gone viral on social media.  The Facebook Page “Syrian Women with the Revolution”, created originally to support the revolution in Syria, has received many “marriage demands” from young Arabs wishing to tie the knot with a Syrian refugee so as “to protect her honor.”

For example, Rami from Jordan posted:

مرحبا انا رامي من الاردن عمري 25 وارغب في اازواج من فتاة سورية ونا واللة جاد جدا وارغب في الستر والحمدلله عندي بيت وراتبي منيح والحمدلله

Hello, I am Rami, 25 years old from Jordan. I'd like to marry a Syrian girl. I swear I am very serious and I wish to protect the honor. Thanks to God, I have a house and my salary is good. Thanks God

In response, many Syrians revealed their extreme irritation and anger over the abuse of the conditions of refugee families through such marriage contracts and bargains. On the other hand, the phenomena reached Libya, where Syrian refugees talked about Libyans knocking on their doors, looking to marry girls in exchange for money.

Taken from “Syrian Women with the Revolution Page” where we can read: Is this is how we are being rewarded? By you buying our sisters from the refugees camps? Shame on you and on your sense of honor. The Liberated Kfarnabl 04/09/2012

Helal Samarqandy wrote on Facebook:

أقلها هلا ركزت في دعمهن للحصول على ضروريات الحياة ثم اطلب يدها حرة إن أردت، أما استغلال تشردهن وفقدان ضرورات الحياة لديهن فلست بخير من بشار.
لعن الله من لا يحركه الا فرجه.

The least you can do is support them to have the basics of life and then propose to her when she is free if you want but as to exploit their displacement and their lack of the basics things for life, you are no better than Bashar. May God curse the one whose brain is between his legs.

Nbares Blog asserted the existence of secret bureaus for “honor marriages” with Syrian girl in Benghazi, where Syrian refugees speak of Libyans knocking the doors of Syrian families looking to marry from young girls in addition to the existence of offices working discretely. Meanwhile, Libyan Affairs entitles its post “A double suffering for Syrian Refugee Girls …. a war tearing the homeland and marriage proposals that are closer to forced marriages”:

…دكاكين أبو حمد، [ وهو رمز لـ”تاجر نساء” في الأردن والجزائر وليبيا والعراق اختاره أحد الكتاب السعوديين الذين انتقدوا ظاهرة استغلال السوريات اللاجئات من قبل خليجيين وعرب] العربي المتدين الذي يتاجر بالنساء معززا بفتاوى الفقهاء، بدأت انتشارها مع اشتداد الحرب في سوريا، وسرعان ما وجدت زبائنها من الشباب والشيوخ راغبين في الزواج بالسوريات، “لسترهن” أو للتكفل بهن من منطلق أنهن لاجئات لا عائل لهن….. وغالبا ما يتم الزواج بالسوريات اللاجئات بمهور زهيدةحيث لاتملك عائلة العروس إلا القبول نظرا لظروفها الصعبة وبحثا عن “السترة” وحرصا على شرف البنات والعائلة.

We shall not accept humiliation or disgrace. This is opportunism. From “Syrian Women with the Revolution” Facebook Page and the dialogue translates into: - Marry me in Halal and I shall take you and your family from the camp - You left everything and brought victory to Islam by abusing Syrian refugee girls

The shop of Abu Ahmed [” Symbol of the pimp” in Jordan, Algeria and Iraq named by a Saudi writer who criticized the abuse of Syrian refugee girls by Gulf and Arab nationals … ], the Arab patriotic, the religious who trade women based on the fatwas [religious edicts] of clerics, started to spread with the intensification of the war in Syria and quite soon, it found its clients among youth and old men desiring to wed to Syrians so as to protect their honor or to take care of them because they are refugees without any provider. Very often, these women are married with quite a cheap dowry and the family of the bride can only but accept given their dire conditions and looking for “protection” of the girl's honor and her family.

Within the framework of a campaign to support Syrian refugee women in Syria's neighboring countries, some young Syrians created a Facebook page entitled ” Refugees … not captives” whose mission is summarized as follows:

لحماية حقوق المرأة السورية..
لمحاربة امتهان قيمة المرأة السورية..
لدعوة المجتمع الأهلي ورجال الأعمال لدعم المرأة السورية..
لاجئات لا سبايا.. لأن السوريات انتفضن لأجل كرامتهن لا ليكونوا بضاعة رخيصة في سوق النخاسة تحت مسيمات الزواج والسترة..
شاركونا في دعم حملة ” لاجئات لا سبايا

For the protection of the Syrian women rights
For fighting the humiliation of the value of Syrian women
To call the civil society and businessmen to support Syrian women
Refugees not captives, because Syrian women have rebelled for their dignity so not to become cheap goods in the slave markets under the names of marriage and honor. Join us in supporting “Refugees not captives Campaign”

Moayad Skaif, one of the campaign's founders, wonders on his Facebook Page:

دعوات الخليجيين للزواج من سوريات تعني أنهم ينظرون إلى نسائنا كسبايا ولكن بالمال.. إنه سوق نخاسة.. لإرضاء نزواتهم الجنسية وتحسين نسلهم على حساب كرامتنا وبعناوين فضفاضة..
أيها السوري اليتيم.. صرت قشة في قلب الريح..

The calls of Gulf nationals to marry Syrian women means they look at our women as captives but with money… it is a slave market, to satisfy their sexual impulses and enhance their lineage on the expense of our dignity and with bright titles … ohhhh you poor Syrian orphan … you have become a straw in the heart of history

Interviewed by the electronic magazine “Zaman al Wasl” (The times of communication), he wonders:

إذا كانت النخوة والرغبة في المساعدة هي الدافع الحقيقي لدى راغبي الزواج فلماذا لم يهب هؤلاء إلى ستر الصوماليات أو السودانيات من أهل دارفور؟….وإذا كانت الدوافع انسانية بحتة كما يزعمون فليدعموا الشباب السوري الذي أجبرته الظروف على أن يظل أعزبا وهو لاجئ لا يجد قوت يومه.

Cover Page of “Refugees … Not Captives” Facebook Page

If chivalry and the desire to help is the true motive of the marriage seekers, why don't they protect the honor of Somali or Sudanese women in Darfur as well? If the motives are purely humanitarian as they claim, let them support young Syrian males whose conditions have forced them to stay single being refugee and unable to find his daily bread.

Abdelhak on his blog debdoupress insists on the importance of that campaign:

…تهدف الحملة التي أطلقتها الناشطة السورية مزنة دريد تحت شعار( لاجئات لا سبايا) إلى توعية أهالي الفتيات ضد مخاطر هذا الزواج المغلف بعناوين دينية وقيمية اجتماعية، وتوجيه رسالة لبعض الشباب الخليجي والعربي ممن يعتقدون أن الزواج من سوريات طريقة معقولة للمساعدة بأن السوريين يرفضون المساعدة بهذه الطريقة، لأن المخاطر التي قد تترتب على هذا النوع من الزواج تتطلب رفضه.

The campaign launched by the Syrian activist  Mazna Duraid under the title “Refugees not Captives” aims to raise the awareness of the girls parents on the risks of such a marriage covered with religious titles and social values but also to address a message to some of the young people in the Gulf and the Arab World who think that marrying Syrian women is a way of helping, that the Syrians reject such a help because the incumbent risks of such a marriage requires its refusal.

This post is part of our special coverage Syria Protests 2011/12.

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