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Sunday, October 07, 2012

New reports of Syrian refugee women being sold as brides

A followup to this story, from Now Lebanon:
Following the growing influx of Syrian refugees into Arab countries, women are being treated as spoils of war. Widows and daughters are being in essence sold to Arab men who are looking for cheap brides. Families of refugee women sell them into marriage to ensure they are taken care of and that they aren’t deflowered or cause problems in their new homes.

As soon as a group of Syrian activists learned of cases in which Jordanian men were marrying young Syrian girls from the Zaatari refugee camp in northern Jordan under the pretext of protecting them, they launched an online campaign called “Refugees, not Spoils of War.”

“It was a reaction to a call made by Arab clerics encouraging such marriages as a way of protecting the Syrian refugees by using a religious context,” said Moayad Skaif, organizer of the campaign. “These calls are an abuse to Syrian women; they are demeaning and belittle their value and worth. They are also an exploitation of the Syrian refugees’ ordeal.”

The campaign aims to protect the rights of Syrian women seeking refuge, said the activist, by denouncing such acts and preventing them. It also aims to create awareness among Syrian families of the dangers of these marriages and to send a message to young Arabs that aiding Syrian refugees can take different forms than proposing marriage and handing over a dowry. Because of the campaign’s lack of money, it urges non-governmental humanitarian organizations and different donors to establish a fund that support the refugees and their need to marry if they wish to.

“We are not a human right organization and we do not have the resources. We are just concerned activists,” said Skaif.

According to an activist within the campaign who preferred to remain anonymous because of the sensitive nature of his work, some of the cases that were documented involved men marrying women and then forcing them into prostitution. After one such woman fled her husband and went to the police, Jordanian authorities banned Jordanian men marrying Syrian women from the Zaatari refugee camp.

As news of the ban made headlines, many other Syrian refugees living in countries such as Libya and Morocco came forward with their stories. In a report on BBC Arabic, Syrian refugees spoke of how men in Benghazi go door to door asking Syrian families if they have any young girls available for marriage and mentioned offices that handle the details of marrying off young Syrian girls in return for money. Libyan men, according to report, fancy marrying Syrian girls as opposed to Libyan because they are prettier and have lower dowries.