Photo: Paul Chesley/Getty
Everyone's heard about the fighting in the Syrian civil war, but there have been too few stories about how the Syrian civil war has affected the women and children left behind by the men who have gone off to fight. Sadly, the impact has been pretty awful because so many have too few resources to survive. The one resource is their children - specifically, their girls. The younger the better, too, because they are fetching a good price on the Muslim bride market.
Old Saudi men, residents of one of the world's most religious nations, are among the most eager shoppers for the youngest Syrian girls. They can afford to buy multiple girls and that's legal because Islam allows for multiple wives.
Some girls are bought and sold multiple times because these patriarchs of Islamic piety only need a child bride for a few weeks. Then the girl, possibly just barely out of her teens, can be returned and sold off by her family again -- though presumably at a reduced price now. Islam doesn't permit the charging of interest, but I suppose it permits standard depreciation rates for used female bodies.
"My daughter is willing to sacrifice herself for her family," Nezar says. "If the war had not happened I would not marry my daughter to a Saudi. But the Syrians here are poor and have no money."
Nezar's daughter is 17. The Saudi groom is 70. ...
She admits the marriage market is hazardous. Most of the potential grooms offer a few dollars to leer at her daughter. "You are already selling your daughter, you might as well sell her to someone decent," she says. ...
The surplus of desperate Syrian refugees means marriage has become a buyer's market with some grooms offering as little as $100 cash for a bride.
The legal age of marriage in Jordan is 18 but some religious clerics will marry underage girls for a small fee. This puts the girls at even greater risk for exploitation because some of Um Majed's clients want a temporary union lasting a few weeks or months after which the girl is returned to her parents.
In other words, it is religiously sanctioned prostitution. "One of my brides has been married three, four times," Um Majed says. "She is 15." ...
Um Majed raises a cynical eyebrow at this innocent archetype as she strikes a match and lights a cigarette. She became a matchmaker when she approached a local Islamist charity for food and the manager asked if she "knew any pretty girls."
"I have 10 families looking for grooms," she says. "Their girls are between 12 and 21. The grooms are always in their 40s, 50s, or 70s. They want beautiful girls, the younger the better."
She pauses and takes a drag of the cigarette. "The Saudis usually ask for 12-year-olds."
As she sees it, life has become about exploiting or being exploited. "I have to feed my children," she says.
Source: The Star
I notice that Um Majed's desire to feed her children doesn't extend to selling her own children to old Saudi men. Curious, huh?
As the story indicates, many mothers are desperate because they really can't feed the family unless they sell off a daughter or two to elderly Saudi perverts. They also hope that those daughters who are sold will be cared for and possibly be in a position to send more money back to the family. That, however, requires trusting the moral character and decency of an old man who is willing to buy a child to force sex upon. That doesn't strike me as a sound plan for the future.
Most of the time, these girls are sold to men living in a country other than Syria, which means they won't have citizenship or perhaps any other legal status. They will be easily cut off from contact with family back home and they won't have any family, friends, or other support in the country of their new husbands. They are young and inexperienced, which means they will have few coping skills to deal with the situations they find themselves in. They have been raised in a patriarchal religious culture which demands extreme deference and submission from women towards men.
For those who find themselves in Saudi Arabia, every aspect of all this will be worse.
All of this creates a perfect storm for abuse of every sort -- sexual, emotional, psychological, and physical. For all practical purposes, these girls will have no rights, no options, no friends... nothing. In some cases, if the girl "disappears," no one will know and no one will want to even look for her. The men buying them know this, too.
Don't forget, though, that Islam doesn't actually treat women as inferior. The buying and selling of young girls but not boys is, I guess, an indication of how highly valued women and girls are. Right?