Syrian refugee daughters question unwanted offers of marriage
Lys Anzia – WNN Breaking
(WNN) Amman, JORDAN: Exposing the increasing plight of young refugee women leaving Syria, an October 10 blog post by Global Voices – the award-winning web-based global community of 500+ bloggers and citizen journalists – has brought the voices of Syrian women into the foreground.
Young women who are leaving the country are first in line for exploitation, says Global Voices blogger Rami Alhames, a 34-year-old Brazilian mechanical engineer who outlines that women on sites like Facebook, as well as other sites where Syrian refugee women come together, are being deluged with ‘marriage proposals’ from men who say they want to offer their “help” to keep a “woman’s honour” intact through marriage.
But the offers are coming online to the women unwanted and unanswered. The offers are also coming from a unwanted knock on the door.
“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,” outlines Alhames. But forced marriage is not all that young women leaving the region are facing. The chances that they, or their family, may be approached by someone who ultimately wants to profit from them in the slave-trade might also be a possibility. Some parents though may be tempted to allow their daughters to marry because the ‘prospective husbands’ are not demanding a large dowry. In Libya they are offering money to family to marry their daughters.
“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,” says one women’s refugee group in Libya who has shared that some families have men knocking on their doors looking to marry girls in exchange for money.
Today the flood of women refugees leaving the region of Syria has expanded into many countries, including Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Libya. As Syrian women, and immigrant women who lived in Syria, leave familiar surroundings and local communities they, and their families, face increasingly unstable family economies. This kind of desperation can cause a family to consider ‘unwanted’ offers of marriage.
“More than 75% of assisted Syrian refugees are women and children. The targeting of civilians is well documented. But sexual violence against women and girls receives little attention,” says an August 2012 statement made by the IRC – International Rescue Committee. “…many female refugees must flee Syria alone with their children, which can put them all in unsafe situations. Coerced early marriage of Syrian girls has become a noticeable trend in Jordan as families buckle under financial stress,” continued the IRC.
The number of refugees leaving Syria is expected this year to reach over 700,000 says the UNHCR – United Nations Refugee Agency. The number of refugee camps in Turkey now number 14. Many other camps have also been set up. Other families have managed to find refuge with family or friends by staying in homes located in neighboring countries.
So how are the young women who have now left Syria with or without their family?
“Other protection issues confront Syrian women and girls. In Jordan and elsewhere, many are now held in transit centers or camps near the border. This can place unaccompanied Syrian women and girls in danger of trafficking, abuse and exploitation,” continues the IRC.
“The continuing rapid growth in refugee numbers underscores the urgency of last weeks revised Syria Regional Response Plan seeking $487.9 million in support of up to 710,000 Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries by the end of this year,” says the UNHCR in an October 2, 2012 Briefing Note. “The generosity and hospitality shown by these countries as they struggle to cope with growing numbers of refugees make it essential that the international community provide as much support as possible. Many refugees and the communities hosting them are already running out of resources,” adds the UNHCR.
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