Syria’s child brides in Zaatari refugee camp speak up

UNICEF said around a quarter of Syrian refugee marriages in Jordan involve girls under the age of 18

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Child marriages have become popular among Syrians living in refugee camps in neighboring Jordan and Lebanon, and the trend is rising at an alarming rate, according to recent U.N. reports.

The U.N.’s Children’s Rights and Emergency Relief Organization (UNICEF) stated last year that around a quarter of Syrian refugee marriages registered in Jordan involve girls under the age of 18.

Girls over the age of 18 are being considered “old and will not [be able to] marry,” Jordanian midwife Mounira Shaban, who resides in Zaatari camp told the BBC.

The camp was opened in 2012 to house displaced Syrians fleeing the conflict in their war-torn country. Today, the population of the camp is estimated at 79,701, according to UNHCR data.

Some of the child brides in Zaatari opened up about their situation, and said that major life choices were not being made by them.

The wedding “was a sad day, I did not want to get married at this age,” one of the young girls, who was seen carrying a baby only months old, told the BBC.

From underneath a black veil, another teenage refugee told the BBC that she did not have the option of rejecting the marriage proposal of a 50-year-old man from Kuwait. She was 14.

“Everyone was telling me to smile or laugh but my feeling was fear, from the moment we got engaged,” she said, recalling her wedding day.

While the rate of child marriage in Syria before the war was 13 percent, the figure has since significantly increased, according to the BBC.

Poverty is the driving effect of most child marriages, according to the U.N. However, some families marry their girls off young because of tradition, while others secure a suitor to offer protection and a stable future for their daughters.

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