Teenage Syrian Girls Are Being Sold Into Forced Marriages To Save Their Families

“No mother wants this,” says one woman as she tries to sell her daughter to an older man. “But this is our life now.”

A Syrian refugee girl stands in front of her family’s tent at Zaatari Refugee Camp in Mafraq, Jordan. / AP

A Syrian refugee girl stands in front of her family’s tent at Zaatari Refugee Camp in Mafraq, Jordan. / AP

Buzzfeed (May 22) — Samira Ismail doesn’t want to sell her young daughter into a marriage with a man she had never met, but she can’t see any other way for her family to survive.

Earlier this week, she found herself in the awful position of trying to marry her 17-year-old daughter off to a much older man who had offered to pay her family up to $3,000, money that could keep Ismail’s small family afloat for nearly a year.

Like many Syrian refugees, Ismail once dreamed of lavish weddings for each of her four daughters. In Syria they would have married in the spring, she said, when the days are long but not too hot. She would have invited the entire village, and made sure that three types of meat were served. Her daughters would have borrowed her aunt’s antique lace veil, and worn gold bracelets on their arms.

But that all changed when Samira was forced to flee her village near the southern city of Homs as the violence that has claimed more than 160,000 lives intensified. Eighteen months ago, she arrived in the Zaatari refugee camp, where she lived in a tent for four months before moving to an already crowded apartment near the Jordanian city of Ramthe. The men in her family try to find odd jobs to make ends meet, but they almost always come up short.

There are more than one million Syrian refugees in Jordan, and like them, Samira and her family are left to watch helplessly as violence continues to rage at home. They are increasingly aware they may never return home. This left them with no choice, she said, but to marry off one of her daughters.

“No mother wants this,” said Ismail. “But this is our life now.”

She was sitting in the grubby apartment of a well-known broker of Syrian brides in Amman, who only agreed to speak to BuzzFeed so long as she could use the pseudonym Dima. She isn’t proud of the work she does, but Dima’s ties to several families in the Gulf mean she can set up prospective grooms with Syrian brides.

It was not long before one of the several phones on Dima’s desk rang. On the other end was the cousin of a prospective groom. He had been tasked, he said, with finding an appropriate wife.

“[The men] all want the same thing. They want blue or green eyes, very pale skin, and very young,” said Dima. “Very, very young. That is what they all say.”

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