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Raseef22 documents the trafficking of Syrian women in Iraq: Testimonies from “The Road to Hell”

Raseef22 documents the trafficking of Syrian women in Iraq: Testimonies from “The Road to Hell”

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Life Women’s Rights Marginalized Groups

Wednesday 6 December 202302:28 pm
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رصيف22 يوثّق الإتجار بالسوريات في العراق... شهادات من "الطريق إلى الجحيم"

“My sisters and I became a burden to our father, and so I did not hesitate to get married.” With this, Rahaf begins her story. At the time of her marriage, the 26-year old Syrian woman from Al-Sakhour, Aleppo, was a university student unable to continue her education due to her family’s economic circumstances. She continues, “We received a phone call from a relative of an Iraqi man. She asked my father what he thought of a well-off man, seeking a Syrian bride, proposing to one of his daughters. My father agreed, the man chose me, and I accepted.”

Rahaf continues, “After a little while, the young man approached my parents to propose, and we got married with an 'unofficial contract outside the court' – a marriage contract by clerics, but not recognized by Iraqi Sharia courts.” Rahaf, who declined to disclose her last name, says, “The man bought me some clothes and gave my father an envelope containing 500 US dollars.”

She adds, “Things went well, seemingly perfect. He promised me that we would live in Erbil, in a separate house from his family, and that he would complete our marriage papers in Iraq.” Before the couple moved to Erbil, the man organized a small family wedding celebration for his bride in Aleppo.

It did not take long for the groom to break his promises. Instead of moving to Erbil as promised, Rahaf’s husband moved them to Baghdad, and into his family's large home, which she describes as very spacious across two floors. Her brother-in-law occupied the upper floor, while she and her husband were to live on the lower floor.

Rahaf's testimony about her marriage in Iraq

Rahaf joined her husband’s family, and her name was added to the house-cleaning schedule maintained by her mother-in-law. Before joining the family, household chores were divided among the daughters-in-law. However, after Rahaf’s arrival, everyone took advantage of her presence, and the cleaning was left entirely to her.

A few months into the marriage, Rahaf was adapting to life in Baghdad. She began to forget the broken promise of having her own home. However, upon discovering that she was pregnant, issues between Rahaf and her mother-in-law increased, with her mother-in-law claiming that the baby, from their lineage, was more important than Rahaf. Her mother-in-law cared more for the unborn child's health than that of his mother, and forced Rahaf to consume large meals, greater than her stomach could handle.

One cold winter night, feeling bored, Rahaf decided to leave her room and go to the garden, only to find her husband there with another woman. She discovered that the woman was his first wife, and that he had five daughters from her. She says, “I couldn't control myself; I started screaming, and to silence me, he, and his first wife, began beating me.” This whole time, Rahaf thought she was the first wife and had always wondered why he delayed marriage to his forties. He blamed his studies and work. Rahaf never expected him to be married to another woman and have fathered five daughters. She later discovered that her husband and his first wife had disagreed after his marriage to Rahaf, as it was done without his first wife’s approval. They reconciled some time later.

Despite the harsh circumstances, Rahaf accepted her reality and endured insults, beatings and abuse for the sake of her baby. But the real shock came when her husband and his family tricked her, and registered her child as that of his first wife's

Despite the harsh circumstances, Rahaf never entertained the thought of divorce. She accepted her reality and endured insults, beatings and abuse for the sake of her child. But the real shock came when her husband and his family tricked her, and registered her child as that of his first wife's. After she objected, she was thrown out onto the street without a passport or any official documents. Unwilling to burden her family by returning to Syria, Rahaf recalled a neighbor's offer of assistance, who had previously sympathized with her and had told her to ask for help if she ever needed it.

Rahaf knocked on this neighbor's door, and together, with the help of some local elders, mediated with her husband's family, and eventually convinced them to return her passport. Eventually, Rahaf gathered a sum of money that allowed her to make the journey back to Syria. She was able to reunite with her family, but was forced to leave her son behind; he had been taken away from her, and she had no way to reach him.

"Syrian women for free"

Mohammed (who declined to disclose his last name) is a taxi driver from rural Aleppo. Raseef22 spoke with him about these arranged marriages. Mohammed was introduced to an Iraqi family who, through his mediation, married all their sons to Syrian girls. Mohammed tells Raseef22, “The cost of these marriages ranges from $300 to $1,000, depending on the girl's specifications. The money is handed directly to the head of the family. Some families do not even demand money and only want their daughters married into good homes.”

Iraqi men look for a variety of traits in young Syrian women and girls. “It varies based on personal preferences,” Mohammed explains, “some prefer them tall, slender, and fair-skinned, while others prefer them curvy and dark.”

Similarly, some of the Syrian brides' families “do not care about the Iraqi groom's specifications. He could be elderly or mentally challenged. They do not mind if their daughter is to become a maid in the household, or a carer for a sick relative of the groom. For some families, the most important part is the financial compensation.”

The harsh economic reality in Syria has negatively impacted its peoples lives, pushing most Syrian families into a state of struggle for survival, forcing them to look for various means to secure income and maintain their livelihood. Marrying their daughters to Iraqi men for a financial sum has become one such method.

The harsh economic reality in Syria has pushed many families into a state of struggle for survival, forcing them to look for various means to secure income and livelihood. Marrying their daughters to Iraqi men for a financial sum has become one such method

Mohammad's role is to collect the groom and his family at the airport or at the Syrian-Iraqi border, and provide them with accommodation, entertainment, and ensure their needs are met during their stay in Syria. The cost of Mohammad’s service is not included in the price of the bride; here, each service has its own cost.

According to Mohammad, the cost of finding a bride and coordinating with her family is approximately 300 US dollars. Mohammed also liaises with the matchmakers, who, in turn, take a cut. The cost of transport from the airport in Damascus to the city center is 50 US dollars. Finally, Mohammad’s fee, for entertaining and sightseeing with the visitors from Iraq, amounts to 100 US dollars.

Mohammad shares that most of the Iraqi families he has worked with pass on his contact details with other families, who then approach him for his services. According to him, these marriage requests are in high demand, with three or four marriages occurring in a single week. Some grooms choose to leave their bride in Syria after the wedding, visiting her periodically, while others bring her with them to their country of residence.

When Mohammad's task ends, the mission of the ‘Hamlat al-Dar’, a religious tourism group, begins. Iraqi journalist Quds Al-Samarrai, who specializes in social issues, explains that ‘Hamlat al-Dar’ has a list of phone numbers of Syrian families seeking to marry their daughters. Then, the trip organizer introduces the visiting Iraqi men to Syrian girls, as per their request, and agreements between their families are later made to finalize the marriage details.

Phone call with the 'marriage broker' Mohammad, who explains how he secures women for those seeking a wife.

Al-Samarrai asserts that these Iraqi men and their families do not care about the bride's personality, background, or even her educational level. What matters most is the dowry and that she be coy and ‘coquettish’. As for the Iraqi men who wish to enter into such marriages, they are typically polygamous, from remote villages, or with low incomes and unable to meet the marriage conditions usually imposed by Iraqi families, such as dowry and household furnishings.

Economic analyst Mohammed Jawad Al-Ayed comments on these marriages fuelled by the tough economic situation in Syria, which has “caused great suffering for many families. Some live in horrible circumstances and are forced to make tough decisions, like selling their daughters and marrying them off without dowries or guarantees.” Al-Ayed emphasizes the need for international and humanitarian support to assist affected families and improve their conditions.

In light of the tough local economy, some women are forced into unsuitable jobs. This can, according to Al-Ayad, “impact culture and society. Syrian women have been significantly affected, and face a loss of security and shelter, with reduced job opportunities.”

A decrease in job opportunities and rise in unemployment has forced some women “to work in low-wage jobs under unsafe conditions, and there is increased pressure on Syrian women to help meet their families’ needs.”

Al-Ayed adds that women are also affected by the lack of healthcare and education which impacts “their development opportunities and effective participation in the labor market.” He underscores the necessity of enhancing job opportunities and providing economic support for Syrian women.

Dead and missing Syrian women

Aws, a 23-year-old from Qaboun, Damascus, works as a street vendor. Aws, who chose not to disclose his last name due to social stigma, tells Raseef22, “In 2018, my underage sister, fourteen at the time, married a fifty-year-old Iraqi man from Basra. He wore traditional Arab attire and frequented Damascus to visit the Sayeda Zainab shrine. A familial relationship developed between us, and one day, he saw my sister on her way home from school. Immediately, he asked my parents for her hand in marriage, and they agreed without hesitation. The man handed my father a sum of 6,000 US dollars, which my father used for my brother's medical treatment in Turkey, as he had been shot and required a necessary operation.”

"Some Syrian families do not care about the Iraqi groom's specifications. He could be elderly or mentally challenged. They don't mind if their daughter even becomes a maid in the household. The most important part for some is the financial compensation"

Aws reveals that his sister initially refused the marriage, but their father's pressure and threats forced her to agree. In June 2018, she traveled to Basra to be with her husband.

In the early days of her marriage, she contacted her parents on a daily basis, and complained about her poor situation. She disclosed that she was living with her husband’s three other wives, as well as his grandchildren who were older than her. During her husband's travels, his other wives were violent and abusive towards her. Despite her suffering, Aws admits that their father refused to let his sister return. Life continued like this until early 2020, when she gave birth. Shortly after, her husband died from COVID-19, and the situation became much worse.

The young wife mistakenly thought her husband's death would finally end her suffering, and allow her to finally return home with her son. However, her deceased husband's family refused and hid her passport and identification papers from her. Aws says, “I contacted her several times, encouraging her to escape, but she refused to leave her son behind.”

After the death of her husband, Aws claims that his sister had no choice but to marry her deceased husband's brother, who was known for his temper, harsh temperament and use of foul language. When she called her family, she complained and cried, and as a result, her new husband took away her phone to prevent them from communicating.

One day, Aws contacted a relative working at a restaurant in Baghdad, and asked him to find out about his sister’s situation and well-being. As promised, the relative asked around and then got back in touch with Aws to say that the family his sister had married into was “known for its backwards ways.” Inquiring about her “might lead to accusations against her honor, and they could even kill her in cold blood.” Aws breaks down and says, “We are still too young to bear all this sorrow; this is the cruelty of war."

Up until this investigation, Aws and his family do not have the whereabouts of their daughter. No one dares to inquire, and her family is trapped in Damascus, helpless.

Sarah Jassim, a human rights activist, reports a recent incident, “of a Syrian girl who threw herself from the 7th floor of a residential building in central Baghdad. She is currently hospitalized at the Canadian Hospital in critical condition.”

Jassim continues, “A young Iraqi man had promised this Syrian girl marriage, smuggling her into Iraq. Disputes arose when he began evading and breaking promises. He blackmailed her for 10,000 US dollars, and put her under great psychological stress, that ultimately led to her suicide attempt. She was immediately transferred to the Canadian Hospital.”

Jassim spoke with the group of observers and reporters outside the hospital. The girl's mother, by her daughter’s side in the hospital, refused to talk to her husband or file a complaint, fearing Iraqi laws and deportation.

Raseef22 followed the condition of the hospitalized girl. A journalist who requested to remain anonymous said, “When I visited the girl, her mother was afraid of losing her daughter and facing deportation. I spoke with her and attempted to persuade her to participate in a press interview in Iraq. I even contacted a Syrian journalist to try and convince her. However, all attempts were in vain because the girl's family opted to keep the case quiet and not open an investigation, fearing deportation.”

After her husband's death, she was forced to marry her deceased husband's brother, known for his sharp temper, harsh temperament and foul language. When she called her family complaining and crying, her new husband took away her phone and cut all communication

The reporter identified the young woman’s husband, discovering that he was in the vicinity of the hospital. He was most likely there to threaten her family. The family refused to discuss with the reporter.

War commodifies women

Women's rights activist Israa Salman from Baghdad explains, “Syrian girls have become commodities easily exploited by some men through marriage contracts outside the court.” She adds that these Syrian girls “fled the horrors of war to seek a dignified life, only to face racism, sexual exploitation, and difficulties in renewing their expired residency permits or in gaining legal immigration status. The majority find themselves prey to predators who wish to satisfy their desires with meager dowries.”

According to Salman, in recent years, the reputation of Syrian girls as wives has become popular among Iraqi youth, who encourage one another with mocking phrases like 'marry a Syrian girl; it won't cost you anything': no household items, gold or jewelry, and no legal documents.

Salman highlights one of the biggest problems with these marriages, that they occur without official documents, through a ‘sayyid contract’, a verbal agreement made outside the court. As a result, the children of these couples are born without documents and official records. Oftentimes, the man flees after a few months of marriage, making it difficult for the wife to seek legal redress due to her lack of residency documents. The majority enter the country illegally, leaving their fate unknown.

Community police report dozens of cases every month of Syrian women seeking help due to the violence they are subjected to at the hands of their husbands. Ghalib Al-Atiya, director of the community police, tells Raseef22, “Most Syrian women fall victim to human trafficking networks, becoming implicated.” He discusses methods of luring them from camps or smuggling them from Syria, making them vulnerable to gangs. They are trafficked in various ways, primarily through “prostitution, cafes, and beauty centers.” Smugglers see these Syrian girls and women as tools for profit due to their lack of legal documents, which enables their enslavement.

Ghalib adds, “We have monitored cases of marriage between Syrian girls and Iraqi men in remote areas and villages in several Iraqi provinces. After arriving from Syria, they are surprised by the poor living conditions of their husbands. Most of them escape after discovering the truth and seek our centers for assistance, where we provide them with the necessary support.”

Raseef22 contacted the Syrian Embassy in Baghdad to follow up on the details of the suicide case, but they declined to comment. An employee at the embassy clarified that their role in Baghdad is to maintain diplomatic, political, and legal relations, and that commenting on the news of the Syrian girl who died by suicide could create a political crisis between the countries.

A source familiar with the case at the Iraqi Ministry of Interior, who asked to remain anonymous for legal reasons, shared that the Syrian Embassy is uncooperative. “Among its primary duties in Iraq, is assisting its citizens and addressing their problems, but it fails to do so.” Our source claimed that humanitarian organizations avoid handing over the women who are exposed to violence and exploitation to the embassy, fearing that their names could appear as ‘wanted’ by the Syrian regime. He noted that most human traffickers are Syrians themselves, trafficking minors and setting prices, all the result of the long war and the spread of poverty.

International and governmental organizations turn a blind eye

Zakaa Al-Din Jamal, an official in the social protection network of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in central and southern Iraq, describes the organization’s position on this issue as weak due to the absence of supportive laws. He explains that the organization provides a protection document to all Syrian asylum seekers but does not grant them the right to stay in the country. The legal way for them to stay in Iraq is to be in possession of an official residence permit.

Jamal notes that the Iraqi Permanent Committee for Refugee Affairs has not been working since 2019. As a result, any Syrian refugee in Iraq without official residency is considered illegal. According to him, Syrians enter Iraq by various means, either through the airport in Erbil or Qamishli.

The UNHCR is unable to provide these women assistance due to their limited resources and absence of grants. The conditions faced by Syrians in Iraq are deplorable, and the hands of the Commission are effectively tied.

Jamal continues, explaining that the solution lies in “providing [the women] with financial assistance. What is happening now is the provision of minimal financial aid at irregular intervals, sometimes every six months. There are shelters that receive very challenging cases of domestic abuse, and some women in need of urgent treatment.”

Absi Smeisem, a journalist and activist, tells Raseef22, “Most cases of sexual exploitation involve Syrian refugee women. These victims do not file complaints against the perpetrators for many reasons, primarily the fear of shame and the stigma that may follow them, in addition to the fear of being blackmailed, especially if he holds influence or is involved in smuggling. They fear retaliation, especially when they do not possess official documents or have legal issues in their residence. They fear being deported with their families to dangerous areas. This is in addition to the psychological stress of being a refugee woman in a foreign country with unfamiliar laws.”

Smeisem adds that in somee cases involving marriage, “women are enslaved and subjected to harsh living conditions. In most cases, the refugee woman is surprised to find that her groom, who had promised her a lot, is already married and cannot even register her legally as a wife. He keeps her as a mistress legally, and as a wife according to the sheikh's marriage contract.”

Children born into these marriages are subsequently not officially registered under the name of the Syrian mother, but are rather officially registered under the name of the Iraqi wife.

Smeisem elaborates, “The Syrian Network for Human Rights documented over 1,650 cases of extortion and sexual harassment against Syrian refugee women in various countries by human trafficking networks during refugee trips. The dire financial situations of Syrian women in some countries like Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, and Greece are exploited under various pretexts, including marriage, securing documents, or employment. And minors are often victims of this extortion.”

There have also been reports of cases of Syrian girls being brought to Iraq under the pretext of marriage, only to discover that the groom intends to exploit them to work in prostitution. Qudss Al-Samarrai discloses having observed several cases where this has happened, with the girls involved disappearing completely upon entering Iraq.

Raseef22 headed to a specialized massage center in Baghdad's Mansour district to further investigate Al-Samarrai’s claims. We found that most of the female workers there were Syrian. We contacted the center as potential customers, and we inquired about the entry process for the girls. The center owner explained that “Syrian girls are in demand among customers, and Iraqi men naturally prefer foreign women because their work is clean and precise, and they don't have families to inquire about them.”

The owner added, “The methods of bringing them into Iraq vary. Sometimes, we send our young male customers to Syria to bring back the girl. Here, the coordination has been done in advance by a member of our team. Other times, neighbors or friends of the girls bring them.” He remarks that some young men breach the agreement and keep the girls, but that for the most part, they ultimately manage to retrieve the girls by encouraging them to escape, threatening the young men or paying them.

Girls are recruited for the massage center via advertisements on social media: ‘seeking female workers in exchange for $1000.’ In order to convince the families of the interested girls, a young man from the massage center is sent to Syria posing as a groom seeking a Syrian bride.

Girls are also recruited via advertisements on social media platforms, with messages including: ‘seeking female workers in exchange for monthly salaries starting from a thousand dollars, in addition to gifts from customers’. In response to these advertisements, the center owner claims to receive many messages from Syrian girls in camps expressing their interest to join the team. In order to convince the families of these girls, one of the young men working at the center is sent to Syria posing as a groom seeking a Syrian bride. Once successful, the girl comes to Iraq accompanied by the worker, who then hands her over to the center.

He adds, “The work of these girls is very simple; they must start by pouring oil onto the client's body for an hour. Gifts range from 30 to 100 US dollars. Prices vary if she agrees to engage in sexual activities with him in the red room. This is all in addition to her fixed income and the accommodation provided.” According to the owner, most of these workers send money monthly to their families in Syria, with some even renting houses for their families who were living in camps.

The owner of a massage center in Baghdad talks about his employment of Syrian women

Nightclubs teeming with Syrian women

The working methods in nightclubs are not different to those at massage centers. We spoke with a 19-year-old Syrian girl who asked to be referred to by her work name, Rita. She works between nightclubs in Baghdad’s Al-Arasat area, earning a daily amount of no less than 500 US dollars. She arrived in Baghdad four years ago, having been sold by her family to a young Iraqi man.

Rita tells Raseef22 about the young Iraqi man who formally proposed to her infront of her family in Syria, before being married in an unofficial "sheikh's contract". Once back in Iraq, her husband began to sell her to his friends in order to obtain money for drugs. Rita lights her cigarette and says, “I thought about returning to Syria, but it was very difficult, so I decided to stay here. I got rid of my husband and asked one of his friends to work with him for a fee, and he agreed. Now I work and send my family their monthly expenses, not out of love for them, but for the sake of my younger sisters.”

According to political analyst Safaa Al-Lami, those who support, protect, and control prostitution networks are corrupt leaders holding key positions in the state. They prey on girls from bars, and take them without any consequence or punishment.

Marriage without documentation

Changes in Iraq’s political landscape have resulted in complex social phenomena, and broken behavior patterns and societal customs. One such phenomenon is the marriage of Iraqi men to Syrian women, which Dr. Waed Ibrahim Khalil, a sociologist at the University of Mosul, deems a “negative phenomenon” as they are socially, economically, and culturally unequal. Without a strong and equal foundation, the partnership will likely fail. Khalil calls on media and educational institutions to “educate young people to protect them from riding the waves of this phenomenon that are corrupting the family.”

Raseef22 spoke with some Iraqi women, who opened up about life inside their homes, and their testimonies were similar. With any minor disagreement, their husbands are quick to threaten, “I'll go get a Syrian girl, marry her, and she'll satisfy my sexual demands without any disagreement.”

The story of Labiba, a 22-year-old from Deir ez-Zor, is similar to that of the other women that Raseef22 spoke with. Upon leaving her husband, Labiba returned to Syria without her son. Her husband, thirty years her senior, stole the child, informing her that the child is from his lineage. He justified his actions by labeling her an unfit mother, since he knew nothing about her past and background, except that her family offered her to him for a sum of 300 US dollars.

When she arrived back in Syria, she discovered that her father had died while she was in Baghdad. Communication with her family had been cut, so she was unaware.

Dr. Waed Ibrahim Khalil, a sociologist at the University of Mosul, regards these marriages a “negative phenomenon” as they are socially, economically, and culturally unequal. Khalil calls on media and educational institutions to “educate young people and protect them.”

Labiba was married through an unofficial sheikh's contract. In the early period of her marriage, she stayed in Syria and lived with her husband in her family home. Though her husband traveled to Iraq, he continued to visit her from time to time. Each visit, he brought her younger siblings gifts and took care of her father's medical expenses. During one of his visits, she informed him that she was pregnant, and he insisted that she move with him to Iraq. There, he would complete the paperwork for their marriage. She agreed to travel with him. Upon their arrival in Baghdad, he confiscated her phone, which confused her.

Labiba was astonished by her in-laws, who lived in a village in Dhi Qar Governorate. Upon her arrival, they forced her to clean animal manure, as well as in farming and agriculture, in which she was inexperienced. Every time she refused to work, she was subjected to beatings and insults from her husband and his family.

The young woman continues, recalling what happened to her after she gave birth in the summer of 2022. She says, “My husband asked me to leave my newborn baby with his aunt, claiming that the journey to Baghdad was exhausting and long. According to him, the purpose of the journey was to meet with his lawyer friend in Baghdad to complete the paperwork for our marriage and register our child.”

Labiba’s testimony about her abusive and deceitful marriage to an Iraqi man

Once the couple arrived in Baghdad, Labiba’s husband booked her a hotel room in Karrada. There, her husband handed her a small sum of money and pointed from the hotel window to a company that organized travel to Syria. He said that he wasn't honored to know her. Then, he left.

She says, “I was shocked by his behavior, but I refused to return to Syria without my son. So, I stayed and worked in the hotel restaurant for two months. Everyone sympathized with my story and helped me go to human rights organizations. However, I don't have a way, and I don't have any document proving that I am his wife and have a child with him. So, I gave up and returned to Syria to face the fate of poverty again.”

Ali Abbas, 38, from Najaf province, says that he married a Syrian woman, and his experience in this marriage is one of the most successful, despite having two previous failed marriages. However, he emphasizes that his current wife “understands him, obeys his words, and is young.” She is 16 years old, and despite her young age, tolerates his excessive anger and, unlike Iraqi women, whom he describes as “difficult to please, demanding, and insisting on expensive dowries, while refusing to get married with used furniture”, his Syrian wife does not object to anything.

The couple were introduced by his mother, who was visiting Damascus in the summer of 2022. By chance, she met the young girl’s family, and immediately proposed on behalf of her son. According to him, his mother was straightforward with his in-laws, admitting that though irate when angry, he is kind and affectionate when calm.

Abbas maintains that marrying a Syrian girl was much better for him than an Iraqi girl. “Iraqi girls cannot handle a man's anger. When a disagreement arises, she immediately leaves the house and informs her family, while the Syrian girl tolerates the anger and insults and cannot leave the house because her family refuses to take her back.”

"My little daughter did not want to get married, especially not after the first meeting between her and her husband. She told me at the time, ‘Father, I am afraid that this man might devour me, as he is overweight and old. I am terrified of him'.”

The economic crisis impacts Syrian women

The aging and exhaustion is visible on the face of Abu Lilian, the 40-year-old man from Homs, who requested we refer to him by his nickname. He says, “The situation is very bad inside the camps in Duhok province in Iraq. Even animals cannot survive in this environment devoid of the basic requirements of life; there is no water, no electricity, no sanitation facilities, and diseases are gnawing at our bodies. We cannot secure a single meal because all aid has been cut off, and we are not allowed to work or start small projects.” Women are forced to secretly work in households and hotel cleaning, fearing legal prosecution for not having work permits.

Abu Lilian feels compelled to accept a marriage proposal for his daughters at any price, in order to save them from their tragic living situation. He says, “If someone proposes to marry my young daughter, who was born in 2009, I will not hesitate to agree.”

He falls silent for a moment and then suddenly resumes speaking, “My little daughter did not want to get married, especially not after the first meeting between her and her husband. She told me at the time, ‘Father, I am afraid that this man might devour me, as he is overweight and old. I am terrified of him.’”

Ultimately, Abu Lilian convinced his young daughter to go ahead with the marriage, “fearing that she might be subjected to harassment or something worse here, in these tents that do not not protect us from the heat of summer or the cold of winter.” However, he adds that with every visit, he observes her searching for her lost childhood. He points out that the situation in Syria is no different from the situation in the camps. Syrian young men are refraining from marriage, and most of them have migrated. Moreover, poverty has consumed them, and every time he calls to check on his relatives in Syria, they tell him that his brother's daughter or one of his relatives has married a foreigner, all to escape from this poverty and hell, to another hell with an unknown end.

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