Some Syrian Refugees Adopt Early Marriage as Survival Plan

Some Syrian refugees in Jordan are marrying off their daughters at very young ages with hopes that this will protect them from harsh living conditions and lighten the burdens of their families. Samar Najjar reports that some of these girls are as young as 13, and that many refugees can't get marriage licenses due to trouble with access to records in Syria.

al-monitor A Syrian girl living in Jordan looks on during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad outside the United Nations office in Amman October 15, 2011. Photo by REUTERS/Ali Jarekji.

Topics covered

women's rights, women's issues, violence against women, violence, syrian refugees, syrian crisis, syrian, rape, marriage, abuse

Jul 25, 2012

A number of Syrian refugees who have settled in Jordan have decided to marry their daughters off at a very young age in order to protect them from rape attempts and harsh living conditions. “We have witnessed approximately 50 cases of early marriage [within the refugee community], and most of the girls married Syrians, mainly their cousins,” confirmed Khaled Ghanem from the Islamic Association.

Hana Ghadban, a volunteer for the Syrian Women’s Association, stated that in Syrian cities such as Homs and Daraa, many girls are married at the age of 13 or 14. “We know several girls who got married after taking refuge in Jordan, and most of them were engaged in Syria prior to their arrival,” added Ghadban.

UNICEF’s local representative, Dominic Haidy, confirmed that UNICEF was aware of the problem, adding “we are seriously concerned about these cases of early marriage, which serve as a mechanism [for displaced Syrians] to better adapt to conditions.”

Harsh living conditions for Syrians in Jordan have led many Syrian families to marry off their daughters at an early age. Umm Sarah, a Syrian refugee, has arranged for the marriage of her 14 and 15 year-old daughters, as she is no longer capable of providing for them.

The Humanitarian News Agency IRIN spoke with the father of 14 year old Hanadi, a Syrian refugee who is now pregnant. The father stated that girls as young as his daughter are now being raped in Syria, confirming that “Syria is no longer a safe place for women and girls.”

An aid worker, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that in order for foreign citizens to register their marriage in Jordanian religious courts, they must submit a letter from their embassy stating that they are not already married. He added that in light of the present conflict in Syria, it was impossible for Syrian refugees to obtain any documents from the Syrian Embassy in Jordan. Consequently, Syrian refugees now have no choice but to arrange unofficial marriages presided over by clerics.

War Child, a London-based NGO, said that the international community has failed to protect the children of Syria, adding that many children were the direct victims of the violent acts that have been taking place the past 16 months. A War Child report noted that “children are being tortured, mistreated, randomly killed, raped and forced to participate in battles.” According to statistics from a variety of human rights organizations, more than 1,200 children have been killed in Syria since March 2011.

Continue reading this article by registering at no cost and get unlimited access to:
  • Al-Monitor Archives
  • The Week in Review
  • Exclusive Events
  • Invitation-only Briefings

More from  Samar Najjar