After two years of on-going war in Syria news from crisis area leave us increasingly indifferent. But the suffering continues for those affected, whether in Syria or in the refugee camps in the neighbouring countries. Coping with the refugee life is a struggle and some families have to opt for drastic measures to ensure an income. Child marriage is becoming a problem.

Since the outbreak of war over 2.5 million Syrians fled their homes, many of them crossed the borders to the neighbouring countries and found refuge in one of the refugee camps or in private accommodation, most of them women and children. While the husbands continue to fight in the streets of Syria, the aid provided by international organisations and NGOs cannot satisfy the needs of all refugees. Without the providers of the family women see themselves increasingly confronted with sexual exploitation and poverty. One perceived solution is marrying off young girls to rich Arab men in return for a dowry of a few hundred Dollars.

One solution is to marry off your daughter to a rich Arab man

Such tendencies have been observed in Jordan, but also in Lebanon. Despite the fact that marriages between girls in their young teens and older men in their forties, fifties or sixties are not legal, unofficial ceremonies make such unions socially acceptable. Many young girls or parents who have been interviewed have commented that they chose for the lesser evil. Andrew Harper from the UN refugee Agency told the BBC he “can’t think of anything more disgusting than people targeting refugee women. You can call it rape, you can call it prostitution, you can call it what you want but it’s preying on the weakest.“

While some organisations try to help girls avoid such deals, others have found matchmaking between young Syrian girls and old Arab men to be an efficient business model – 70$ registration fee, 310$ if the matchmaker finds the client a wife. Thus, for Syrian girls the line between forced prostitution and marriage is thin.

Image: Syrian refugee camp in Jordan (by  DFID – UK Department for International Development)

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