Activists launch campaign to stop Syrian women marrying foreign fighters
(Zaman Al Wasl)- Syrian activists launched a campaign in northern Idlib province demanding immediate halt of foreign jihadists’ marriage.
“Who is your husband” seeks expose the danger of Syrian women marrying foreigners present in Syria. The campaign comes due to the increase in the number of Syrian women from foreigners who are members of extremist groups especially in areas controlled by radical Islamic organizations. The campaign aims to highlight the negative effects of this phenomenon and lower the high percentage.
Nassib Abdul Aziz, the campaign founder and a media activist, told Zaman al-Wasl that the campaign targets communities where many Syrian women have married foreign fighters especially in northern Syria, which is controlled by the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham. He explained that the campaign is directed to women in these communities, parents and local decision-makers, including clerics and lawyers as they are responsible for drawing up contracts for these illegal and unrecognized marriages.
The campaign statistics indicate that there are around 1,750 cases of Syrian women married to foreign fighters, 1124 of these couples have children, and 1826 children have been born to these couples. 165 of these women are alone after their foreign husbands fled Syria, and more than 193 are widows or divorced. There are no statistics so far regarding the number of Syrian men married to foreign women who are members of different Islamic factions. However, as Abdul Aziz pointed out, the negative effects of Syrian men marrying foreign women is not at the same scale or size of the negative effects generated by Syrian women marrying foreign fighters described as “extremists”.
Abdul Aziz said that Syrian women’s marriage to foreign fighters is often fraught with instability as a result of the difference in culture and the husband’s goals from the marriage and his view of women as a commodity. He clarified that many negative consequences from these marriages the most significant being the children that result from the marriage. These children’s futures and their identities are under threat as they will face multiple problems. By law they are excluded from accessing citizenship rights the most important of which are identity and education. These children may also have a strange relationship with their fathers. A percentage of foreign fighters left their Syrian wives to return to their countries, move to another area with the faction they fight for without the Syrian women they are married to or they have been killed. As a result, Syrian wives remain with their children without a support and face multiple problems from their families and society and even in their relationships with their children.
According to Abdul Aziz the most prominent problem that arises due to this marriage is that the bride, her family and even the cleric organizing the marriage contract do not know the correct name and descent of the foreign groom. The knowledge is not shared with them as a preventative measure and for security reasons, but this lack of knowledge alone is sufficient to render the marriage void. By law the bride’s family and the cleric knowing the name and descent of the groom is a prerequisite and primary condition to ensure the validity of the contract.
The campaign launched recently relies on various activities including women’s dialogue sessions, graffiti quotes on walls in various areas, organizing several activities on social media and hanging up posters and brochures on the walls in public places in Idlib city and its countryside. The campaign uses key phrases to raise awareness about the dangers of Syrian women marrying foreign fighters including, “Extremist thought destroyed families and societies,” “O gracious mother: Your daughter deserves a life of security and stability,” and ”O gracious young girl, a young man of common sense, known origin, family and descent, is the best person to be your husband and build a family with you.” The campaign uses other phrases that highlight the problems the children of these marriages face, “A child without an identity will be a burden on his mother and on society.”
Abdul Aziz said that the campaign received a positive response from the people and some women’s centers while many legal or judicial bodies did not respond positively to the campaign. He attributed their negative responses to their direct or indirect subordination to Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham. He added that several foreigners Saudis and Tunisians sought to thwart the campaign and obstruct its activities by sabotaging the graffiti or removing the posters.
Judge Mohamed Nour Hamidi said to Zaman Al Wasl that the Syrian Personal Status Law stipulates a number of conditions to ensure the validity of a marriage contract. The conditions include presenting a certificate from the Muktar, neighborhood authority, bearing the name of the groom, his age, place of residence, and the name of the bride’s guardian. The couple are also required to submit a certified copy of their civil status documents, and a doctor’s certificate verifying the groom has no illnesses. In the event, the groom is in the army, he must submit a marriage license special to members of the armed services as well as approval from the Directorate of Public Security. All these requirements defined in article 40 of the Personal Status Law are not found in the marriage contract conducted with foreign fighters in Idlib province and its countryside or other liberated areas according to Hamdi. He added that the conditions are seen as formalities only.
“The fundamental characteristic of marriage is its public nature, but most of these marriages are conducted in secret and the necessary procedures are not followed,” Hamdi said. He continued, “here, is the fundamental problem: the situation of the children as the wife cannot prove that these are her children or prove who their father is, and this is the real danger that results from these marriages.”