Syrian Refugees Struggle in Egypt

Many Syrians have taken refuge in Egypt to escape the war in Syria. But the economic crisis in Egypt has forced many Syrian families to make difficult decisions, including marrying their daughters for money, to survive.

al-monitor Syrian bride Hanan Al Hariri, 20, sit during her wedding at Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, Sept. 9, 2012. Photo by REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed.

Topics covered

syrian, egypt recovery, egypt, economic

Nov 21, 2012

Many Syrians have escaped the hellish battles pitting the Syrian regime against its opposition and moved to Egypt. But in Egypt, they are having social problems that are affecting Egyptian society. The most prominent of those problems is the lack of jobs, prompting many Syrians to beg at mosques. It is now common to see a young Syrian refugee showing his nationality card and begging the mosque congregants to help his family. But he is not collecting enough in light of the suffocating economic crisis in Egypt. Syrian refugees are also facing a housing problem and Assad’s shabiha gangs are harassing Syrian dissidents even in Cairo.

The number of Syrian refugees in Egypt is increasing and they have no hope of returning to Syria in the near future. So a new phenomenon has emerged: A network of brokers who arrange marriages. Syrian refugee Susan al-Dairi is one of those brokers. She relies on her brother, Ibrahim al-Dairi, who gets her information on the Syrian demographics in Egypt. Because of economic pressures, many Syrian girls have accepted to get married.

The Syrian relief committee is itself involved in that issue. Maaz Abdallah said that a family from Homs has married off its daughters after they arrived from Syria. A Syrian woman offered to have one of her daughters get married to her uncle to protect her from danger. Eyewitnesses said that there is a village called al-Mataniya in the South Ayyat region of Giza, where 100 girls were married by charities to Egyptian males in exchange for 1,000 Egyptian pounds [$164] each. The money is paid to the girl, who keeps all her material and moral rights, and the man promises to provide an apartment and furniture. Some imams have called on Egyptian men to marry from among the Syrian refugee families if they financially can and on condition that they treat the Syrian girls well.

Kamal Saeed is a prominent Syrian refugee in Egypt. He is originally from Zabadani. He has a wife, three sons and one daughter. He said some Egyptians are taking advantage of the Syrians’ poor economic conditions and offering to help a Syrian family in return for marrying one of their daughters. Saeed claimed that Syrian families are feeling humiliated by such offers. He said that Egyptians should unconditionally help Syrian families in light of the Syrian plight that has killed thousands of Syrians. He said that some refugees have chosen to send their daughters to work as dancers in clubs or have pushed them into prostitution with Gulf Arabs, even though these Syrian families are financially better off than the rest. A large number of these Syrians live in Aamraniyya. They number about 670 families and belong to one of the Syrian tribes.

Saeed added that he is not against Syrians marrying Egyptians but that he is against the lying and the deception. He said that many Syrians and Egyptian have gotten married out of love and that he approves of those kinds of marriages. But he said that some Syrians and Egyptians get married by mutual lying, cheating and fraud. He said he was contacted by several Egyptians who offered to marry his daughter, but he told them that his daughter is engaged to his cousin.

He said that respectable Syrian families are embarrassed by what is happening to them in Syria and that some Syrians are offering marriage in return for support. He said that in spite of what is happening to Syrians in Egypt, Egypt remains the most secure Arab country for Syrians given the good nature of the Egyptian people.

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