38-year-old Ramez was terminated from his job at a facility in the Sayyida Zainab area of southern Damascus, when his supervisor noticed him neglecting his duties. He kept spending official work hours engrossed in his mobile phone, a behavior that deviated from the norm. It was later discovered that Ramez was engaged in another occupation: serving as a middleman to facilitate marriages between Iraqi grooms and Syrian brides. In return for his services, Ramez receives a commission, potentially reaching up to two million Syrian pounds, paid by the Iraqi groom upon the signing of the marriage contract and acceptance of the bride.
In essence, Ramez exploited his extensive knowledge of the region and the assistance of his wife and mother to streamline the matchmaking process. The area attracted a steady influx of Iraqis, both for religious and medical tourism. Ramez would go to great lengths to connect with these individuals and Iraqi families visiting Syria, employing their dialect, fostering closeness, showering them with flattery, and extolling their cultural heritage. While some of Ramez's behavior mirrored the genuine warmth and hospitality of Syrian hosts, the other half was an exaggeration aimed at presenting himself as a trustworthy figure ready to carry out the task in exchange for the promised "two million," should they seek assistance in finding a Syrian bride, especially considering they were in a foreign land!
Ramez's intimate familiarity with the area, his surroundings, along with the assistance of his wife and mother, and his social network proved instrumental in locating suitable matches in the process of finding the suitable girl or wife based on the desired criteria and qualities. Within his mobile phone, he keeps a list of families in his area who are interested in marrying off their daughters to Iraqis. He communicates with them, presents the qualities of the prospective groom, and ensures coordination between the parties until they meet in person for the engagement and visit.
Many Syrian families leaned towards accepting an Iraqi groom, desiring stability for their daughters, financial security, and the prospect of leaving Syria to escape any lingering military obligations. Moreover, Iraqi husbands were reputed for "spoiling" and doting on their wives.
Ramez works as a middleman to facilitate marriages between Iraqi young men and Syrian brides. In return for his services, he receives a commission reaching up to two million Syrian pounds
My 40-year old neighbor chose me for a 45-year old groom
Fatima, a 28-year-old woman from Homs, recounted an incident when she received a call from a neighbor in her forties. Initially, the conversation started amicably, with the neighbor heaping praise and compliments on her. However, the discussion took an unexpected turn when the neighbor proposed a marriage proposal to a 45-year-old wealthy and single Iraqi man. Overwhelmed, Fatima abruptly ended the call without giving an answer. It later transpired that her neighbor was working as a marriage broker.
She says, "I regretted my overreaction, because I cut off the call directly, especially since the proposition was a legal marriage, and not some shady or illicit relationship. I should have made it clear to the broker that I only want a Syrian groom, have no intention to travel, and do not care if he is wealthy. I should have told her that even if I was in my late twenties, it doesn't mean I would settle for just anyone. I should have said there was no need for the broker to engage in lengthy persuasion tactics just to earn one or two million Syrian pounds."
Love on the Tigris
Numerous marriages between Syrians and Iraqis have already occurred without the involvement of brokers. These unions had come about naturally through mutual attraction and amicable correspondence.
Reem, a 21-year-old woman, recently celebrated the third anniversary of her marriage to an Iraqi man. The celebration revived the love between her and her partner. To commemorate their love, she meticulously organized an opulent anniversary celebration that seemed like an official ceremony, as evident from the Instagram stories she shared. The event comprised an exquisite dinner at the Dijla Touristic Village, adorned with decorations befitting the romantic occasion, followed by a yacht excursion.
Three years ago, Reem worked as a nurse in a specialized medical center in Damascus. During that time, she encountered her future husband, who had traveled from Iraq for medical treatment and tourism. The two fell deeply in love. However, he later disclosed that he was already married and had a child. Driven by a sense of responsibility, Reem decided to end the relationship, fearing she might be the reason for the separation of an entire family.
In the Sayyida Zainab area, among every ten marriages, there is one official marriage contract with an Iraqi groom.
The young man went back to Iraq but soon returned to Damascus after only two months, armed with news and documents substantiating his divorce from his first wife. He expressed his dissatisfaction with the initial marriage and professed his love for Reem, seeking her hand in marriage with the approval of his family.
Reem takes great pride in her marriage, particularly because her husband supports her in taking beauty courses to pursue her dream. He even opened a private center for her in the center of Baghdad, which has proven to be a profitable venture for her.
Recently, Reem had the opportunity to upgrade her car, replacing her old one with a sleek and modern "Dodge SRT." Excited about her new acquisition, she shared a picture of the car on her WhatsApp status, captioning it in an Iraqi dialect: "My new lawful possession."
"I came back without my soul"
Sara managed to escape from Iraq to Syria about a year ago, in order to flee the relentless humiliation, cruelty, verbal abuse, and physical violence inflicted upon her by her Iraqi husband and his family. She recounts the painful blisters on her fingers from being forced to knead and make bread on a daily basis, and the agony of dealing with the ointments for the boils and warts that appeared on her feet due to being forced to do all the household chores. She was treated as a servant, serving her husband's family and siblings, and if she fell short in any small way, Sara, the daughter of a martyr, was cursed and called a "daughter of filth".
Sara is an orphaned minor from northern Syria. Her father was martyred during the last years of war. Her mother, seeking financial stability, arranged her marriage to an Iraqi man, hoping for a large dowry and a better life for her daughter, given their difficult circumstances.
Reflecting on her experiences, Sara says, "During the engagement and that period, there were no indications that my husband and his family would break their promise to protect and respect me. It later became clear that they brought me in to be a servant slave."
Sara underwent humiliation, cruelty, verbal abuse, and physical violence by her Iraqi husband and his family. There were no indications at first they'd break their promise to protect and respect her but it soon became clear they had brought her to be a slave
Driven by her husband and his family's persistent attempts to control, intimidate, and degrade her, Sara made the difficult decision to deceive them and escape with her one-year-old daughter. She sought refuge with a tribe in Iraq that is associated with her husband's family, and shared her harrowing experiences, seeking their assistance to help her return to Damascus.
The young woman says, "The tribe understood my situation, and their elders sought to secure my return to Damascus. But I didn't know that the law doesn't allow me to take my daughter to Syria without her father's consent. I couldn't bear to stay in Iraq, and I couldn't bear to return to Syria without my child. I had to choose between remaining in my husband's prison or going back without my 'soul'!"
Recalling the heart-wrenching moment, Sara says, "I bid farewell to my daughter amidst uncontrollable tears. I clung to her for four hours, her hair wet with the evidence of my sorrow. Reluctantly, I left her behind and returned to Syria, carrying her clothes.. not her!"
Sara's escape did not go unnoticed or unpunished. Today, she faces the haunting specter of cross-border revenge from her husband, who aims to blackmail and coerce her into returning to Iraq under the guise of caring for their daughter. He shares her pictures on social media platforms, accompanied by derogatory remarks, and seeks assistance from intermediaries to exert further pressure and extortion.
The girl does not blame her mother, who hastily agreed to her marriage and now laments the consequences her daughter faces.
"Came back as lifeless bodies"
Z.A. (20 years old) tragically returned to Homs from Iraq, as a lifeless body, a mere 40 days after giving birth to her daughter. The exact cause of her death remains uncertain, with some speculating it to be "childbed fever", while others suggest she was suffocated at the hands of her Iraqi husband and his second wife, their motives still shrouded in mystery.
Similarly, the body of M.A. (25 years old) also returned to Homs from Iraq just one week after marrying an Iraqi man in his forties. She became a third wife to the man who already had two other wives, and it is rumored that she was fatally stabbed by one of her husband's other wives out of jealousy. Curiously, the rich husband paid blood money to the family of his Syrian wife, and he also paid a separate sum to secure the release of his Iraqi wife, who was imprisoned for the murder.
The victim, M.A., had a previous marriage with an Iraqi man hailing from Basra. According to those close to her, he was described as respectful, educated, affectionate, and doting towards her. However, she refused to remain in Iraq and insisted on living in Damascus, where she eventually returned.
M.A. separated from her first Iraqi husband due to disagreements over their place of residence. She then remarried another Iraqi man, unaware that she had chosen a path that would lead to her tragic fate.
Why Syrian young women?
We sought to understand the reasons behind the prevalence of such marriages between the two countries, particularly the preference of Iraqi young men for marrying Syrian girls. The answers came directly from the Iraqis themselves, revealing that some are drawn to the Levantine dialect, the mannerisms, and the fair complexion of Syrian girls. Others seek to break away from societal customs and traditions that impose arranged marriages with cousins or girls from their own tribes, sometimes without the groom's complete and unequivocal consent. Additionally, some men tire of the interference from extended family members in marital disputes, which, with flexibility and moderation, could be resolved, but occasionally escalate into conflicts (sometimes armed) among clan members.
Some Iraqis opt for Syrian girls due to the difference in dowries between the two countries. They find Syrian dowries to be lower than those in Iraq and consider Syrian girls to be less arrogant and haughty, and possessing a more gentle nature compared to girls from other countries.
The young woman returned a body body just one week after marrying an Iraqi man in his forties. The man already had two other wives, and she was fatally stabbed by one out of jealousy. Curiously, the rich husband paid to release his Iraqi wife from prison
A judge's perspective
A Syrian judge says that in the Sayyida Zainab area, among every ten marriages, there is one official marriage contract with an Iraqi groom, indicating a growing trend and sustained interest in Iraqi grooms, particularly in recent times.
While speaking to Raseef22 regarding divorce cases initiated by the Syrian wives, the judge remarks that most of them were given an opportunity for reconciliation, as the reasons presented were insufficient to warrant a divorce decision. These reasons often revolve around "challenges in adapting to the Iraqi environment, which differs somewhat from the Syrian environment. Such challenges include the imposition of wearing an abaya, restrictions on movement, work, visits, and other factors, especially in areas outside the capital."
He further explains, "There have been reports of financial exploitation and fraud perpetrated by Syrian girls against Iraqi grooms. These cases involve them deceiving the groom, pretending to desire marriage, and then the girl receives the dowry, then the girl evades and disappears. This has prompted numerous Iraqi young men to file complaints in the courts of Damascus."
It is difficult to determine whether successful marriages outweigh unsuccessful ones or vice versa in the context of "Iraqi matchmaking" in Syria, a trend that has gained popularity over the past seven years. For each stable and successful marriage, there exists another that is unstable and unsuccessful.
Raseef22 is a not for profit entity. Our focus is on quality journalism. Every contribution to the NasRaseef membership goes directly towards journalism production. We stand independent, not accepting corporate sponsorships, sponsored content or political funding.
Support our mission to keep Raseef22 available to all readers by clicking here!