Child brides another casualty of Syrian war

Child brides another casualty of Syrian war
Displacement, instability and poverty are driving the underage marriages in war-torn Syria. File/Getty Images
Updated 12 June 2018

Child brides another casualty of Syrian war

Child brides another casualty of Syrian war
  • The rate of child marriage in Syria was less than 7 percent before 2011, but since the war started the figure has more than doubled to 14 percent
  • The ministry’s figures showed that about 10 percent of child marriages in 2013 were registered at religious courts in Damascus

DAMASCUS: Layla was 15 when her parents married her off to the first suitor after her family were forced to leave their home in a Damascus suburb.
Now a mother of three, she works as a manicurist in a beauty salon in Abu Rummaneh, an upscale neighborhood of the Syrian capital.
While still only 20, the wrinkles starting to form around the young woman’s eyes are a hint of the hardship that she has faced — another person suffering from the devastating civil war.
“The money I make here is barely enough to cover our basic needs, so I clean houses on Mondays — my day off,” she said.
“I want my daughters to receive a good education and become independent women, even if I had to mop floors for the rest of my life.”
The rate of child marriage in Syria was less than 7 percent before 2011, but since the war started the figure has more than doubled to 14 percent, according to Syrian Justice Ministry figures.
However, a 2017 report by the Syrian Center for Legal Research and Studies reported another increase of 30 percent since 2015.
For Layla, her trauma started when her family moved from Harasta, in northeastern Damascus, to Jaramana, where they lived with four other impoverished families in a cramped house. Her father was struggling to make ends meet when a 25-year-old microbus driver proposed to his daughter. Her family was glad to have one less mouth to feed, and she welcomed the idea of moving to a less cramped place.
In 2016, Layla’s husband died, leaving her with three daughters and his elderly mother to support.
Damascus-based lawyer and writer, Faten Derkiy, told Arab News that forced displacement and poverty drove families to rid themselves of financial burdens by marrying off their adolescent daughters. “We can, of course, stipulate that this rate doubled in Daesh-controlled territories, where young girls are taken as sex slaves and spoils of war,” he said.
Walaa Ibrahim also thought that getting married would save her from tough living conditions after her family was forced to leave their home in Hajjar Al-Aswad, a city 4 km south of the center of Damascus. After violence erupted there, they moved to rent a small house in Naher Aisha.
At age 17 in 2012, she married her cousin, but almost a year later he disappeared in a conflict area when she was eight weeks pregnant.
She and her 4-year-old son, Hatem, now live with her parents.
“My mother was against this marriage because I was very young, but my father saw no harm in giving his consent,” she said.
“I was young and did not think beyond the wedding dress and party.”
She cannot get a job nor continue her education because her son is disabled and needs her undivided attention.
Um Khaled, Walaa’s mother, said that her grandson’s condition was the result of birth asphyxia. “I shouldn’t have gotten married; it’s a huge responsibility with which no child must be burdened,” Walaa said. “I wish to see my son one day as a great achiever who leads a good life.”
Family lawyer Alia Al-Najjar, who runs her own law firm in Damascus, told Arab News that the problem has been exacerbated by many young men joining the conflict and leaving the country. “The war has resulted in an ideological imbalance that made child marriage very common,” she added.
“Parents believe that marrying off their young daughters would protect them from homelessness and would ensure their honor remains intact under these harsh circumstances.”
The ministry’s figures showed that about 10 percent of child marriages in 2013 were registered at religious courts in Damascus.
Article 16 of the Syrian Personal Status Law stipulates that “the appropriate age for marriage is 17 years old for a girl and 18 for a boy.”
But Article 45 Paragraph 1 of the same law states that if the male has reached puberty and the age of 15 and a female claimed the same and reached 13 and requested to get married, a judge could grant them them a wedding.
The consent of a legal guardian — a father or a grandfather — is required.
Attorney Al-Najjar said: “The judge will ask the two minors to provide certain medical exams as well as documents that prove they are capable of starting a family together.”
“The judge can act as a minor girl’s guardian if she didn’t have one, according to Sharia law, and can give his consent for her marriage if he believes her ready and if the suitor is competent.”
Dr. Lama H., a Damascus-based gynecologist and obstetrician, said that while a judge may rule that a woman has reached the age when she can conceive, “this does not constitute that her physical and mental health won’t be harmed in the process.”
She said: “I’ve seen many cases in which the mother-in-law complained that her son’s adolescent wife had several miscarriages, and it was not easy to explain to her that younger age does not mean stronger body.”


A women in her 40s at Dr. Lama’s office said: “War or no war — it seems the middle ages never left Syria.”
Dr. Caleb Backe, a US-based health and wellness expert, told Arab News: “Women who become pregnant under the age 15 are significantly more likely to experience eclampsia and prenatal convulsions, which can damage the mother and her baby.”
Backe said: “Similarly, adolescent mothers face higher risks of giving birth prematurely, bearing children with low birthweight and other potentially fatal neonatal conditions.
“Additionally, pregnancy and childbirth complications are the number one killer of adolescent women around the world.”
After her husband died and the war forced her and her family to leave their home in Jobar, Umm Feras, 50, saw no better option than to marry off her two daughters, who were 14 and 16 at the time, and look only after herself and her disabled son.
“I believed that by doing so I would have fewer mouths to feed, and their husbands would mold them so that no troubles will arise between them,” she said, rubbing her aching, bony knees.
Now, Umm Feras works as a cleaning lady to support her daughters and their young children after their husbands were arrested and not seen again.
“Now I have to feed them and their five little children, the eldest of whom is five years old,” she added, tears forming in the corners of her eyes.
Dr. Marsha Brown of the Institute for Behavioral Sciences and the Law, told Arab News that child marriage is associated with a number of poor lifetime outcomes.
“Children who are forced to marry frequently have limited or no education, as they are often forced to discontinue school in order to focus on having children and assume full-time household duties,” she said.
“Additionally, child brides often lack the necessary ability and life experience to negotiate their roles within their marriage.
“Unfortunately, research also suggests that child brides are often subjected to increased physical and sexual violence from their spouse.”
“Child brides have a greater likelihood of experiencing suicidal thoughts or engaging in self-harm behavior.”


Saudi Arabia’s diverse topography attracts stargazers amid summer vibes

Mountains typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust, and with its different terrains and huge size. (SPA)
Mountains typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust, and with its different terrains and huge size. (SPA)
Updated 31 July 2021

Saudi Arabia’s diverse topography attracts stargazers amid summer vibes

Mountains typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust, and with its different terrains and huge size. (SPA)
  • Its mountains, valleys, plains, deserts are perfect escape for people trying to avoid bright city lights to observe night sky
  • Stargazing offers an obvious opportunity for the Kingdom to further diversify its tourism offering as it seeks to boost non-oil industries in line with Vision 2030

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s size and diverse topography make it an ideal location for astronomy enthusiasts. Its mountains, valleys, sand dunes, hills, plains and large deserts are a perfect escape for people trying to avoid the bright city lights to observe the night sky.

Mulham Hindi, an astronomy researcher, told Arab News that the best place to observe the night sky is far away from light pollution caused by human settlements.
“It is also best in locations where cloud cover is low. With its different terrains and huge size, Saudi Arabia is a suitable place for observing stars and even building observatories,” Hindi said.
He added that there are many locations in Saudi Arabia that are perfect places for astronomers and stargazers, citing Bani Malik, 150 kilometers south of Taif as a prime example.
“The (height above sea level) of that mountainous area reduces the percentage of moisture and atmospheric impurity,” he explained. “Its throughout-the-year cloud cover is less than 25 percent.”
Hindi also mentioned Al-Figrah mountain, west of Madinah, as one of the best areas for stargazing, as the mountain stands an estimated 6,000 feet above sea level.
“With their moderate weather, the northwestern regions of the Kingdom — which include AlUla, the Red Sea Projects, and NEOM — are among the areas with the least light pollution, (so) stargazers regularly visit,” he added.
Hindi explained that the observation of the stars and planets is deeply rooted in Saudi culture, particularly in the nomadic lifestyle prevalent in the Arabian Peninsula before the discovery of oil.
“Stars are (mentioned in) many Arabic poems that were composed hundreds of years ago and are still cited today,” he said. “It is also part of Saudi culture to observe stars while moving from one place to another, especially in the desert areas.”
Hindi also noted that the night sky above the Kingdom has become a popular subject for photographers in recent years. “These photographers have enriched exhibitions with very beautiful photos of the starry sky of the Kingdom, its distinctive terrains and heritage sites,” he said.
From a scientific perspective, he pointed out, the development and growing popularity of astronomy have encouraged Saudi astronomers to examine the planets, galaxies and stars more thoroughly than ever before, producing “scientific studies and research (that) can significantly contribute to the study of astronomy.”
A few days before his death earlier this month, the head of the astronomy and space department at King Abdul Aziz University (KAU), Dr. Hasan Asiri, spoke to the Saudi Press Agency about the difference between the three main types of terrain for stargazing in the Kingdom — deserts, plains and mountains.
“Deserts are characterized by their aridity and lack of light pollution. They include the desert of the Empty Quarter, the Nafud desert, Al-Dahna desert and Bajada desert, which is located to the west of Tabuk region,” Asiri said.
He added that plains are characterized by stable atmospheric layers and low temperatures and humidity levels. “These include the plains of NEOM, AMAALA the Red Sea islands, Al-Wajh, Al-Shuaibah and Al-Silaa region located to the south of Al-Wajh province.”
Mountains, he explained, typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust. He listed Al-Figrah Mountains, west of Madinah; Taif’s Al-Shafa and Al-Hada Mountains; and Mount “Ral,” near Al-Wajh’s Al-Manjor Center as good spots for astronomers. “Several cities can also be added to the list of sites suitable for observational astronomy, namely the northwestern city of AlUla, which is considered one of the Kingdom’s most prominent tourist destinations, in addition to Hail and Tayma, found to the southwest of the city of Tabuk,” he added.
Asiri said that ‘stargazing tourism’ offers an obvious opportunity for the Kingdom to further diversify its tourism offering as it seeks to boost non-oil industries in line with Saudi Vision 2030.
“This issue interests many people, especially now that the Kingdom is steadily moving forward towards establishing an actual tourism sector and ensuring its sustainability through a comprehensive national development plan,” he said.
“Establishing additional stargazing reserves allows us to create new and exceptional tourist destinations that are at the same time entertaining and educational,” he continued. “It also enables us to organize astronomical events, such as world space weeks or astronomy days, activate public and private space domes, and participate in scientific activities related to astronomical events — such as observing solar and lunar eclipses, shooting stars and planets. This approach would combine science with the joy of observing the night sky.”
The Kingdom is already home to several observatories, he noted, including those in Makkah, Al-Wajh and Halat Ammar, as well as the mobile observatories in Sudair, Tumair, Shaqra, Qassim, Dammam, Madinah and Hail. Meanwhile, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Center for Crescents and Astronomy, located at the top of Makkah’s Clock Tower, is considered the largest network of astronomical telescopes in the world.
According to the head of the Qatif Astronomy Society, Dr. Anwar Al-Mohammed, the Milky Way is one of the best astronomical phenomena to observe.
“It is the galaxy in which our sun and the solar system are located. It (consists of) more than 100 billion solar masses,” he explained. “At night, the Milky Way appears as a band of light in the sky and its appearance differs between one region and another based on the level of light pollution.”
Al-Mohammed noted that the Red Sea Development Company is currently working on turning an area of the Tabuk region between the provinces of Umluj and Al-Wajh into an “International Starlight Reserve,” by limiting the use of unnatural lighting in the Red Sea Project at night.
This, he said, could qualify the area as an International Dark Sky Reserve (a region characterized by “an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage and/or public enjoyment”), which requires the approval of the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA).
If it were to be granted membership, he explained, “it would be joining more than 100 international sites that have abided by strict measures when supporting their communities to achieve this goal, and restore the amazing relationship between mankind and the stars.”


UK PM Johnson’s umbrella mishap amuses Prince Charles

UK PM Johnson’s umbrella mishap amuses Prince Charles
Updated 28 July 2021

UK PM Johnson’s umbrella mishap amuses Prince Charles

UK PM Johnson’s umbrella mishap amuses Prince Charles
  • Sitting alongside Charles, Johnson struggled to open up an umbrella

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson struggled to control his umbrella at an official engagement on Wednesday as it was blown inside-out by the wind, to the amusement of heir to the throne Prince Charles.
Sitting alongside Charles, the son of Queen Elizabeth, Johnson struggled to open up an umbrella, then offered it to interior minister Priti Patel before blustery conditions turned the umbrella inside-out, prompting chuckling among the three of them.
Johnson was in central England attending the unveiling of a memorial to police officers who have died in the line of duty.


Greek TV commentator fired for remark about Korean athlete

Greek TV commentator fired for remark about Korean athlete
Updated 28 July 2021

Greek TV commentator fired for remark about Korean athlete

Greek TV commentator fired for remark about Korean athlete
  • ERT television ended its collaboration with veteran journalist Dimosthenis Karmiris following comments he made
  • He said ‘their eyes are narrow so I can’t understand how they can see the ball’

ATHENS: A sports commentator in Greece who made an on-air remark about a South Korean athlete at the Tokyo Olympics that the station called racist has been fired, the country’s state-run broadcaster said Tuesday.
ERT television said it had ended its collaboration with veteran journalist Dimosthenis Karmiris as a guest commentator following comments he made after Jeoung Young-sik beat Panagiotis Gionis of Greece in men’s table tennis.
Asked about the skill of South Korean table tennis players, Karmiris said “their eyes are narrow so I can’t understand how they can see the ball moving back and forth.”
Several hours later, ERT posted a statement on its website.
“Racist comments have no place on public television,” ERT said in the statement. “The collaboration between ERT and Dimosthenis Karmiris was terminated today, immediately after the morning show.”
Jeoung beat Gionis 7-11, 11-7, 8-11, 10-12, 12-10, 11-6, 14-12.


Lebanese fleeing collapse at home seek security, salaries in UAE

Lebanese fleeing collapse at home seek security, salaries in UAE
Updated 26 July 2021

Lebanese fleeing collapse at home seek security, salaries in UAE

Lebanese fleeing collapse at home seek security, salaries in UAE
  • Lebanon’s crisis has propelled more than half the population into poverty

DUBAI: Until a few months ago, 32-year-old Michelle Chaaya was a human resources professional at a multinational firm in Lebanon. Now she works as a bartender in Dubai, sending cash to her family back home where a financial crisis has left many destitute.
The United Arab Emirates has long been a destination for Lebanese businesses and professionals, propelled by instability in their tiny country.
Those who like Chaaya came to the UAE in the past year are leaving behind a Lebanon that was already in dire straits before a huge chemical blast tore through Beirut in August, exacerbating a financial meltdown that has seen the currency collapse and jobs vanish.
“After the explosion we felt like we were hopeless. So the first opportunity to travel outside Lebanon, I took it,” Chaaya said.
Fadi Iskanderani, one of Lebanon’s few paediatric surgeons who this month moved to Dubai, said the plummeting currency meant his wages had fallen by around 95 percent for the same workload.
Having trained overseas, he moved back to help rebuild his country after years of civil war. The decision to leave was heart-wrenching.
Lebanon’s crisis has propelled more than half the population into poverty, locked depositors out of bank accounts and worsened shortages of basic goods.
The country’s prized education and medical sectors have seen talent leave in droves: around 1,200 doctors are estimated to have left Lebanon.
Psychiatrist Joseph Khoury, who moved to Dubai this year with his family, said Lebanese doctors are filling entire departments at hospitals in the Gulf state.
“The pace of doctors coming from Lebanon is astonishing, ” Khoury said.
The UAE is stepping up efforts to attract and retain skilled workers as competition for talent heats up in the Gulf Arab region where countries are moving to diversify economies away from oil revenues.
The UAE, where visas for non-citizens are typically tied to employment, is offering certain investors and skilled professionals new long-term 5- or 10-year renewable residency visas — and even potential citizenship.
Abed Mahfouz, a Lebanese bridal couture designer, said he had been told he could apply for the so-called ‘golden visa’.
After the Beirut blast destroyed his business, Mahfouz re-opened this month in a luxury mall in Dubai, a tourism and trade hub that attracts the high-end customers he caters to.
“Dubai has taken the place of Beirut. What I have seen here (this mall) for the past week or 10 days is what I used to see in Lebanon 4-5 years ago: Customers, people shopping,” he said.
But unlike Lebanon’s professional elite, many younger people are struggling to land jobs in the UAE.
Soha, 28, came to Dubai to look for work after the bookshop cafe where she was employed in Beirut was damaged in the port explosion.
“You come from this tiny pool in Lebanon, so my CV looks like nothing, even though I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot,” said Soha, who declined to give her surname. She is rallying herself for more jobseeking in Dubai, a city that could give her the sense of safety she longs for.
“I just wanted to be sitting in a place where I have that peace of mind that something isn’t going to blow up at any minute.”


As Lebanese suffer crippling economic crisis, MPs celebrate daughters’ lavish weddings

Former Hezbollah MP Nawwar Al-Sahili walked his elegantly-dressed daughter through fireworks-laden walkways and striking strobe lights this week. (Screenshot)
Former Hezbollah MP Nawwar Al-Sahili walked his elegantly-dressed daughter through fireworks-laden walkways and striking strobe lights this week. (Screenshot)
Updated 26 July 2021

As Lebanese suffer crippling economic crisis, MPs celebrate daughters’ lavish weddings

Former Hezbollah MP Nawwar Al-Sahili walked his elegantly-dressed daughter through fireworks-laden walkways and striking strobe lights this week. (Screenshot)
  • Photos and videos of the luxurious weddings were widely shared across social media as they were heavily criticized
  • Photos of Lebanese sleeping on their balconies spread across social media this week as well as ever-growing lines at gas stations

LONDON: Empty supermarket shelves, hours-long queues for gasoline, and resorting to sleeping on the balcony to endure no electricity for fans or air-conditioning in the summer - such has become the routine for the everyday Lebanese.

“These scenes of humiliation, people should not bear,” Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech last month, waving his finger as he lambasted the long fuel lines in recent weeks.

“Those responsible for government formation need to listen to people’s voices and look with pain at the cars queueing up for fuel and the loss of electricity and medication,” Nasrallah said as he urged his supporters to be patient and to sacrifice.

Indeed, Lebanese people of all backgrounds should not have to bear with the consequences of years of government corruption and a financial meltdown - and yet, it appears that Nasrallah’s former representatives in government, nor his party allies’ current parliamentarians do not fall into that category.

Free Patriotic Movement MP Ibrahim Kanaan and former Hezbollah MP Nawwar Al-Sahili both walked their elegantly-dressed daughters through fireworks-laden walkways and striking strobe lights this week - not two weeks after former Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri stepped down from attempting to form a government after 10 months.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by thawramap (@thawramap)

 

Photos and videos of the luxurious weddings were widely shared across social media as they were heavily criticized, prompting Sahili to issue an apology online - claiming that it had not been on purpose.

“Hezbollah is proving yet again how aloof it is to the suffering of Lebanese people. This video of the lavish wedding of their MP Nawar Sahili's daughter, going viral in #Lebanon. No empathy whatsoever,” Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center Research Fellow Mohanad Hage Ali tweeted.

 

 

The photos and videos were promoted across the well-followed Instagram page “Thawramap” - a page created in the heat of the October 17 nationwide protests - that has become an online watchdog targeting politicians and their lifestyles.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by thawramap (@thawramap)

 

“It shows once more that the political establishment is disconnected from the people. Nawwar Sahili posted an apology to the party’s partisans on Twitter, as if he needed the backlash to understand the weight of its actions,” one of the individuals behind the page told Arab News, speaking anonymously due to fear of repercussions for the critical content posted.

Photos of Lebanese sleeping on their balconies spread across social media this week as well as ever-growing lines at gas stations; showcasing an extreme contrast between the everyday lives of politicians and citizens.

A family in Lebanon sleeps on the balcony to cool down in the summer due to lack of electricity for fans or air conditioning. (Facebook/Zakaria Jaber)

Earlier this year, photos of the country’s political leaders wearing luxury watches worth thousands of dollars did the rounds on Twitter while the Lebanese pound’s value deteriorated heavily against the US dollar.

At the time of writing, $1 is equivalent to 22,500 Lebanese pounds (LBP) compared to 1 USD to 1,500 LBP in 2019.