Refugees Not Sex Slaves

08 January 2014

Forced early marriages is a controversial issue that is spreading on a dangerous level in refugee camps, with refugees offering their young daughters for marriage in the hope of protecting them as they face increasing economic pressures. This exploitation of Syrian girls prompted a group of independent Syrian men and women to launch a campaign, to fight this kind of marriage and awake the parents of teenage girls to the dangers of it.

The campaign aims to send a message to Arabs from the Gulf and other regions, that Syrian women are not sex slaves and that they are certainly not for sale. The activists who operate this campaign believe that this issue should be socially stigmatized, emphasizing that those who seek early marriages betray ethical and human values. Activists have also contacted various law committees and private organizations that support women rights in countries hosting Syrian refugees including Gulf countries, Algeria and Egypt. They have also taken into account the role of the intellectual elite in Syria and the Arab world holding them morally responsibility for not taking a stand against forced marriages, and prompting them to establish a fund that helps Syrian refugees with their financial hardships.

Syrian Refugees. Source: The campaign's official Facebook page.
Syrian Refugees. Source: The campaign's official Facebook page.

It should be noted that it is very difficult to ascertain the exact number of such forced marriages due to the taboo status of the subject. An activist involved in the campaign explains " At first we published articles on the exploitation of refugee young girls. Later on, when these attempts had proven futile, we launched an organized campaign, as a group of Syrian youth who are concerned with the issue."

A plan was set up to establish regional teams in refugee countries including Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt, and launch several projects to help end this horrific phenomenon. However, due to lack of sufficient funding, and security risks, many projects were put on hold. Additionally, insufficient coordination between women rights organisations involved proved to be a major obstacle to reaching the desired goal.

Nevertheless, the campaign still lives on through private contributions from its members, who refuse to work by any group's agenda in exchange for money. The activists also state that they have no connection to any militant group "Syrian women are the main focus of our work, since all harsh circumstances including armed conflicts prey on the most vulnerable. We are trying to help women overcome this crisis with the minimal amount of damage."


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Illustation by Dima Nechawi Graphic Design by Hesham Asaad