Offer your support!

Take the lead!
Support the cause!

Syrian refugees as second wives in Turkey: Unregistered and unprotected

Syrian refugees as second wives in Turkey: Unregistered and unprotected

Join the discussion

We’d like to hear from everyone! By joining our Readers' community, you can access this feature. By joining our Readers, you join a community of like-minded people, thirsty to discuss shared (or not!) interests and aspirations.

Let’s discuss!
إقرأ باللغة العربية:

اللاجئة السورية كزوجة ثانية في تركيا... رحلة البحث عن أمان مفقود


Seven years ago, Ola*, a young Syrian woman living in Turkey, married a Turkish man who was already married with children, becoming his second wife. Their union was limited to an Islamic marriage officiated by a religious cleric, and could not be legally registered due to Turkish law, which prohibits polygamy and only allows legal registration for one wife – in this case, his first Turkish wife. This situation left Ola living with her husband without any legal rights, constantly worried about the future of their relationship and the potential consequences if problems arose.

Originally from the Syrian city of Latakia, Ola had two children, whom she managed to register under her and their father's names. She tells Raseef22 that her children received Turkish citizenship and ID cards, obtaining all their rights, but Ola herself was left without any legal standing. She explains that Turkish law allows for the registration of children born from extramarital relationships, recognizing their existence without any official relationship between the parents. For instance, a man can have children with his lover and legally register them under his name without affecting his first marriage, leaving the lover without any legal recognition.

Ola recounts how she tried many times to make their marriage official, but to no avail. Despite receiving promises from her husband that he would divorce his first wife when he proposed to her, claiming he was experiencing marital problems and intended to end his first marriage, he did not follow through after marrying Ola.

"In the event of a divorce or even her husband's death, the second wife would receive nothing – no alimony, not even the mahr (dowry) agreed upon in their religious marriage. All rights would go to the first wife, who would take half of her husband's property."

Ola added that in the event of a divorce or even her husband's death, she would receive nothing – no alimony, not even the mahr (dowry) agreed upon in their religious marriage. All rights would go to the first wife, who would take half of her husband's property.

Ola points out that significant emotional rights are also missing. For instance, when registering their children, she felt excluded by his family, who viewed their relationship as illegitimate. She also noted the societal stigma against her as a second wife, which is largely unacceptable in Turkish society and usually outright rejected. She emphasized that her life is extremely difficult, advising young Syrian women not to accept such marriages that burden them with many responsibilities and fears, unlike normal marriages that are meant to provide a sense of security and comfort. However, she acknowledges that the main reason for her situation was the promises she received from her husband and his inability to fulfill them due to the legal consequences of divorce in Turkey, including the division of property with the first wife.

Reem's story is equally sorrowful. She is the second wife of a Syrian man who managed to obtain Turkish citizenship after years of living in Turkey. However, she and her children remained without citizenship. He had to choose between her and his first wife and children as to who would be included in the family file for naturalization and whose marriage would be legally registered in court to receive Turkish citizenship with him. He chose his first wife, leaving Reem, according to her, a victim of this law that deprived her and her children of the right to citizenship and all other rights.

She remained with a temporary protection card, and to this day, no one recognizes her marriage. She registered her children under her name in the residency file in Turkey and lives in the hope that Turkish laws will one day be fair to second wives. She believes that it is not her fault for living this life, especially since Syrian civil law allows polygamy, and therefore, in her view, she did not do anything against the law.

Umm Omar, who works with Syrian refugee women in the city of Reyhanlı on various issues, primarily holding sessions for awareness and social justice, said the main reason for the spread of this phenomenon among young refugee women and their acceptance of being second wives, despite knowing their rights are not protected, is the search for security and stability. There is a widespread belief that a Turkish man is stable in his country and his society, and thus will secure all her material and emotional needs. She explains that this situation does not last long, and soon problems arise, especially with many promises not being fulfilled, and the realization that this marriage has no actual value. Most men do not want to lose their stability and primary marriage, and this marriage comes as a sort of fling during their lives, especially given its ease and the ability to persuade women who are weaker than them and different from Turkish women, who do not accept being a second wife.

"The only solution to this problem is constant awareness and conducting legal campaigns and sessions to explain to refugee women the impact of such marriages and the legal rulings associated with them."

Umm Omar added that language plays a role in this issue. In most border provinces with Syria, such as Hatay, Urfa, Diyarbakır, and Mardin, the residents speak Arabic fluently. This facilitates the process of rapprochement and completing the marriage. She points out that the only solution to this problem is constant awareness and conducting legal campaigns and sessions to explain to refugee women the impact of such marriages and the legal rulings associated with them.

Shahd Al-Qassem, a law student at Sakarya University in Turkey, spoke to Raseef22 about the concept of marrying a second wife under Turkish law. She explained that such marriages are invalid according to Article 145 of the Turkish Civil Code. Any marriage conducted through a religious cleric, in a church, or any religious contract or other form is not recognized if there is an existing and registered marriage. Any subsequent contract is automatically void, nullifying the second wife's right to claim any rights.

She further explained that if a child is born from such a marriage, the child and mother have the right to request the father to register the child in his name and legally recognize him. However, the father may refuse to acknowledge his child. In this case, the mother and child can file a paternity lawsuit (babalık davası) to establish the child's paternity based on Article 301 of the Turkish Civil Code. This lawsuit and ruling apply to all cases of children born outside the first marriage (illegitimate children).

Ola noted the societal stigma against her as a second wife, which is largely unacceptable in Turkish society and usually outright rejected. Her life is extremely difficult, and she advised young Syrian women not to accept such marriages that burden them with responsibilities and fears.

She added that this lawsuit requires certain conditions, such as filing it in the Family Court located in the same city where the mother lives and where the birth took place in the hospital. If the lawsuit is filed by the mother, she has the right to request paternity between the father and her child, and receive compensation for the material damage she suffered due to childbirth, as well as material compensation for her expenses six weeks before and six weeks after the birth, along with pregnancy and childbirth expenses, and child support. If the lawsuit is not filed within the period allowed by Turkish law – starting from the beginning of pregnancy until one year after birth – the mother's right to file it will be forfeited according to Article 303 of the Turkish Civil Code.

Any woman can file this lawsuit regardless of her nationality. As long as the relationship is with a Turkish person, she can pursue it within Turkish law and courts. Shahd emphasized that the law does not protect the second wife because Turkish law does not legalize or acknowledge this matter, and all previous laws are only to ensure the child's rights. Therefore, her rights can only be guaranteed by rejecting this marriage from the start. The Turkish Civil Code explicitly states that if a person wishes to marry and is already married, the previous marriage must be terminated, as polygamy is not permitted. This regulation applies to Turkish citizens and foreigners, including refugees.

Turkish media has published statistics about Turkish men marrying foreign women, with Syrian women ranking first among the foreign women whose marriages were registered in the country, at 14.6%. Azerbaijani women ranked second at 10.1%, and Uzbek women third at 9.8%. However, these statistics do not account for the Syrian women who are married to Turks through religious contracts only, without any official court registration, thus hindering the existence of any statistics on such cases.


pseudonym


Join Join

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!

Be the change you want to see in the world!

The level of justice in a society is determined by the degree of individual freedom its citizens enjoy. This includes the ability to express themselves, live their lives authentically, and feel safe from harm or punishment. Sadly, in our region and many other places, human rights are constantly endangered by oppressive forces. It's up to us to make a difference and lead the way towards positive change.

Website by WhiteBeard