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.”


NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet
Updated 19 April 2021

NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet
  • It was a brief hop, just 39 seconds and 10 feet (3 meters), but accomplished all the major milestones
  • The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

CAPE CANAVERAL: NASA’s experimental helicopter Ingenuity rose into the thin air above the dusty red surface of Mars on Monday, achieving the first powered flight by an aircraft on another planet.
The triumph was hailed as a Wright brothers moment. The mini 4-pound (1.8-kilogram) copter even carried a bit of wing fabric from the Wright Flyer that made similar history at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903.
It was a brief hop — just 39 seconds and 10 feet (3 meters) — but accomplished all the major milestones.
“We’ve been talking so long about our Wright brothers moment, and here it is,” said project manager MiMi Aung, offering a virtual hug to her socially distanced colleagues in the control room as well as those at home because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Flight controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California declared success after receiving the data and images via the Perseverance rover. Ingenuity hitched a ride to Mars on Perseverance, clinging to the rover’s belly when it touched down in an ancient river delta in February.
The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward.
Scientists cheered the news from around the world and even from space.
“A whole new way to explore the alien terrain in our solar system is now at our disposal,” Nottingham Trent University astronomer Daniel Brown said from England.
This first test flight — with more to come by Ingenuity — holds great promise, Brown noted. Future helicopters could serve as otherworldly scouts for rovers, and eventually astronauts, in difficult, dangerous places.
Ground controllers had to wait more than three excruciating hours before learning whether the preprogrammed flight had succeeded more than 170 million miles (287 million kilometers) away. The first attempt had been delayed a week because of a software error.
When the news finally came, the operations center filled with applause, cheers and laughter. More followed when the first black and white photo from Ingenuity appeared, showing the helicopter’s shadow as it hovered above the surface of Mars.
“The shadow of greatness, #MarsHelicopter first flight on another world complete!” NASA astronaut Victor Glover tweeted from the International Space Station.
Next came stunning color video of the copter’s clean landing, taken by Perseverance, “the best host little Ingenuity could ever hope for,” Aung said in thanking everyone.
The helicopter hovered for 30 seconds at its intended altitude of 10 feet (3 meters), and spent 39 seconds airborne, more than three times longer than the first successful flight of the Wright Flyer, which lasted a mere 12 seconds on Dec. 17, 1903.
To accomplish all this, the helicopter’s twin, counter-rotating rotor blades needed to spin at 2,500 revolutions per minute — five times faster than on Earth. With an atmosphere just 1% the thickness of Earth’s, engineers had to build a helicopter light enough — with blades spinning fast enough — to generate this otherworldly lift.
More than six years in the making, Ingenuity is just 19 inches (49 centimeters) tall, a spindly four-legged chopper. Its fuselage, containing all the batteries, heaters and sensors, is the size of a tissue box. The carbon-fiber, foam-filled rotors are the biggest pieces: Each pair stretches 4 feet (1.2 meters) tip to tip.
Ingenuity also had to be sturdy enough to withstand the Martian wind, and is topped with a solar panel for recharging the batteries, crucial for surviving the minus-130 degree Fahrenheit (minus-90 degree-Celsius) Martian nights.
NASA chose a flat, relatively rock-free patch for Ingenuity’s airfield. Following Monday’s success, NASA named the Martian airfield for the Wright brothers.
“While these two iconic moments in aviation history may be separated by time and 173 million miles of space, they now will forever be linked,” NASA’s science missions Chief Thomas Zurbuchen announced.
The little chopper with a giant job attracted attention from the moment it launched with Perseverance last July. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger joined in the fun, rooting for Ingenuity over the weekend. “Get to the chopper!” he shouted in a tweeted video, a line from his 1987 sci-fi film “Predator.”
Up to five increasingly ambitious flights are planned, and they could lead the way to a fleet of Martian drones in decades to come, providing aerial views, transporting packages and serving as lookouts for human crews. On Earth, the technology could enable helicopters to reach new heights, doing things like more easily navigating the Himalayas.
Ingenuity’s team has until the beginning of May to complete the test flights so that the rover can get on with its main mission: collecting rock samples that could hold evidence of past Martian life, for return to Earth a decade from now.
The team plans to test the helicopter’s limits, possibly even wrecking the craft, leaving it to rest in place forever, having sent its data back home.
Until then, Perseverance will keep watch over Ingenuity. Flight engineers affectionately call them Percy and Ginny.
“Big sister’s watching,” said Malin Space Science Systems’ Elsa Jensen, the rover’s lead camera operator.


Masks come off as Israel vaunts virus victory

Masks come off as Israel vaunts virus victory
Updated 19 April 2021

Masks come off as Israel vaunts virus victory

Masks come off as Israel vaunts virus victory
  • The vaccination of close to 5 million people has sent Israel’s coronavirus caseload tumbling from some 10,000 new infections per day as recently as mid-January, to around 200 cases a day

JERUSALEM: Israelis stepped into the streets without masks on Sunday for the first time in a year, a key milestone as the country vaccinates its way out of a coronavirus nightmare.
“It’s very strange but it’s very nice,” said Eliana Gamulka, 26, after getting off a bus near the busy Jerusalem shopping boulevard of Jaffa Street and removing her face covering.
“You can’t pretend that you don’t know anyone any more,” she smiled.
With over half the population fully vaccinated in one of the world’s fastest anti-COVID 19 inoculation campaigns, the Health Ministry announced on Thursday that masks would no longer be required in public outdoor spaces.
For Gamulka, a project manager, the good news came at the perfect time: Just two weeks before her wedding.
It will be “very nice to celebrate with everyone, now without masks,” she said. “The pictures will be great! I’m very relieved. We can start living again.”
The vaccination of close to 5 million people has sent Israel’s coronavirus caseload tumbling from some 10,000 new infections per day as recently as mid-January, to around 200 cases a day.
That has allowed the reopening of schools, bars, restaurants and other indoor gatherings — although masks are still required in indoor public spaces.

HIGHLIGHTS

• With over half the population fully vaccinated in one of the world’s fastest anti-COVID 19 inoculation campaigns, the Health Ministry announced on Thursday that masks would no longer be required in public outdoor spaces.

• The vaccination of close to 5 million people has sent Israel’s coronavirus caseload tumbling from some 10,000 new infections per day as recently as mid-January, to around 200 cases a day. That has allowed the reopening of schools, bars, restaurants and other indoor gatherings.

Israel just months ago had the world’s highest infection rate, a coronavirus outbreak that left 6,300 people dead among 836,000 cases.
But the country sent its coronavirus caseload tumbling after striking a deal for a vast stock of Pfizer/BioNTech jabs.
In exchange, it agreed to pay above market price and share data it gathers on the recipients, using one of the world’s most sophisticated medical data systems.
Since December, some 53 percent of Israel’s 9.3 million people have received both doses of the jab, including around four-fifths of the population aged over 20.
As recently as January it was registering 10,000 cases per day.
But as the effects of mass vaccination kicked in, by March it was able to implement a gradual reopening.
“There’s no better advertisement for Pfizer,” said Shalom Yatzkan, a computer programmer who had been in quarantine after catching the virus.
“I was sick for three days, I had neck pains and felt weak,” he said as he walked through central Jerusalem. “I just hope the new variants don’t catch up with us.”
Another Sunday landmark in Israel’s exit from coronavirus restrictions was the full resumption of the country’s educational system, without restrictions on the numbers of pupils in classrooms.


How Jewish women married to Arabs were regarded as a threat to Israel: Haaretz

A picture dated March 1, 1940 shows new immigrants wahing their laundry at the immigrants camp near Kibbutz Na'an. (AFP/File Photo)
A picture dated March 1, 1940 shows new immigrants wahing their laundry at the immigrants camp near Kibbutz Na'an. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 18 April 2021

How Jewish women married to Arabs were regarded as a threat to Israel: Haaretz

A picture dated March 1, 1940 shows new immigrants wahing their laundry at the immigrants camp near Kibbutz Na'an. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Israeli newspaper Haaretz details cruel treatment they faced from their own community
  • Researcher: ‘Ostracism, denunciation and shaming gave way to violence’

LONDON: During the formation of Israel in the late 1940s, hundreds of Jewish women were branded as enemies for marrying Arab men, resulting in exclusion, isolation, and in some cases murder, according to stories buried in the country’s archives. 

The histories of the “lost” Jewish women — those who married and assimilated into Arab culture — have been revealed by Israeli newspaper Haaretz, which details the cruel treatment they faced from their own community, including “harsh opposition from home, ostracism, labeling, and opprobrium and social alienation.”

Hanania Dery, chief rabbi of Jaffa at the time, traveled to refugee camps in the newly occupied Palestinian territories to search for Jewish women who had married Arab men and converted to Islam.

He reportedly discovered about 600 Jewish women living in Hebron, Nablus, Gaza City, Khan Yunis and East Jerusalem, and encouraged them to return to their Jewish roots.

The subject of interfaith marriage has long been a taboo subject in Israel. Idith Erez, a graduate student in the Israel Studies department at the University of Haifa, has detailed the plight of the “lost” women, and their treatment at the hands of authorities and underground paramilitary groups.

She said two of her own relatives married Arabs, and “the responses in the family ranged from acceptance and reservations to total rejection.”

Erez was warned by colleagues about the lack of material on the subject. She discovered Jewish references to relationships between Jewish women and Arab men from 1917 to 1948, but found that “writers sought to play down the ‘forbidden stories’.”

Erez said: “One can assume that what was perceived as a family or personal stigma, or as national shame, was excluded from the collective memory, relegated to the warehouse of the darkest secrets and remained hidden there.”

But she found stories hidden away in newspapers, and also detailed records of surveillance operations targeting the “lost” women.

Archives from underground Zionist organizations — including Haganah, Lehi and Irgun — revealed that the women were viewed as a threat to the Jewish community, and were targeted as potential spies.

One notable case is detailed in a report sent by a Haganah member to the organization’s intelligence branch in 1942. He outlines a plan to deploy a Jewish woman to spy on senior Arab figures.

“I am thinking this week of getting in touch, to obtain information, with a Sephardi girl from Tiberias who has intimate relations with Kamal Al-Hussein. He likes to waste a lot of money on her,” the member wrote.

The stories discovered by Erez share one common feature: The hostile attitude of Jewish society toward the relationships.

“The phenomenon was perceived as a threat to the resurgent Jewish collective in Israel, as crossing a national and religious border and as the violation of a social taboo,” she said.

“These relationships were seen as the ultimate threat, serious and significant. They were perceived as having the potential to turn the Yishuv (Jewish community) into a Levantine society, to bring about religious conversion and assimilation into Arab society.”

Many Jews saw interfaith relationships as a deviation from the norm, and the women involved as “whores”, “traitors”, “enemies of Israel” and a “national disgrace,” Erez said.

As tensions between Arab and Jewish communities in Palestine grew, reactions to interfaith relationships became more extreme.

“Ostracism, denunciation and shaming gave way to violence in the family and violence perpetrated by security organizations,” Erez said, adding that some women were even murdered.

Esther K. and Mahmoud Al-Kurdi first met in a Jerusalem cafe that the latter owned, and soon fell in love and married, despite not receiving parental agreement.

Their case went to court, where Esther was told to return home. She told Al-Kurdi: “Never mind, a few months will go by, I’ll turn 18 and come back to you, my dear.” It then emerged that she had fallen pregnant and was forced to have an abortion.

Al-Kurdi said following the case: “I loved her so much. I would do anything for her. People are cruel. Why are they trying to take my blood from me?”

Chaya Zeidenberg, 22, whose Arab lover was Daoud Yasmina, was murdered in early 1948 by Lehi.

In a statement, the paramilitary group accused her of “treason against the homeland and the Jewish people and of collaborating with Arab gangs.”

Lehi members raided Zeidenberg’s apartment and drove her to an unknown location, where she was interrogated and shot dead.

She was buried without her surname on the headstone. The local Jewish burial society registered her as a “spy.”

Erez said of her research: “The women involved were opinionated and strong, unwitting feminists who were ahead of their time and defied the social order, the mechanisms of regimentation and the establishment’s balance of forces. 

“They ignored public opinion and the Zionist ethos, which expected the Hebrew woman to nullify her personal yearnings and serve as a ‘sacrifice,’ if needed, on the altar of the nation.

“The steep price paid for maintaining a relationship with an Arab man did not keep them from conducting the relationship.

“These women did not flinch from harsh reactions, and they saw no contradiction between their choice of an Arab man and their national loyalty or religious affiliation.”


Prince Harry’s son was never entitled to a royal title — and it has nothing to do with Meghan

Prince Harry’s son was never entitled to a royal title — and it has nothing to do with Meghan
Updated 17 April 2021

Prince Harry’s son was never entitled to a royal title — and it has nothing to do with Meghan

Prince Harry’s son was never entitled to a royal title — and it has nothing to do with Meghan
  • Title protocol dates back to 104-year-old decree issued by King George V

LONDON: US TV star Oprah Winfrey’s high-profile interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry left many viewers with more questions than answers.
One major controversy covered in the interview concerned the title of the couple’s son Archie, full name Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor.
Despite being seventh in line to the British throne, Archie was not granted the title of prince, which has angered Megan and her fans.
But Archie’s lack of title at birth is to be expected, given the precedent established by a royal rule dating back 104 years.
In 1917, King George V issued a decree stating: “The grandchildren of the sons of any such Sovereign in the direct male line (save only the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales) shall have and enjoy in all occasions the style and title enjoyed by the children of Dukes of these Our Realms.”
Because Queen Elizabeth II is the ruling sovereign, her children and grandchildren receive royal titles.
But her great-grandchildren — including any children of Megan and Prince Harry — will only be titled Lord or Lady Mountbatten-Windsor.
This also means that Archie did not receive the title “his royal highness” (HRH). His parents decided to use the title “master.”
Despite Megan’s expectation that her son would assume the title of prince upon becoming a grandson when Prince Charles takes the throne, she was told that “protocols would be changed.”
So why did the children of Prince William and Kate Middleton receive the royal titles? Because Queen Elizabeth demanded it.
As a direct heir to the throne, their son George was always entitled to be a prince, unlike his siblings Charlotte and Louis.
But when Kate was pregnant, Queen Elizabeth issued a letters patent giving the prince or princess title to any of William’s children.
This led to Megan arguing that her son “was not being titled in the same way that other grandchildren would be.”
Several of the queen’s grandchildren, including Lady Louise Windsor and James, Viscount Severn, could have been provided with royal titles when they were born, but their parents requested otherwise so that they could pursue normal lives.
So even though Queen Elizabeth decided to avoid extending the HRH title, it might be a silver lining for Megan and Prince Harry, given that they have since chosen to step back from royal duties altogether. 


Sydney man finds snake in lettuce bought at supermarket

Sydney man finds snake in lettuce bought at supermarket
Updated 16 April 2021

Sydney man finds snake in lettuce bought at supermarket

Sydney man finds snake in lettuce bought at supermarket
  • Alex White bought lettuce from ALDI supermarket Monday and bicycled home with salad and snake in his backpack
  • ALDI is investigating how a venomous pale-headed snake could have found its way into a supermarket

CANBERRA: Alex White thought he was watching a huge worm writhing in plastic-wrapped lettuce he’d just brought home from a Sydney supermarket — until a snake tongue flicked.
“I kind of completely freaked out when I saw this little tongue come out of its mouth and start flicking around and realized it was a snake because worms don’t have tongues,” White said on Thursday.
“I definitely kind of panicked a bit,” he added.
It was a venomous pale-headed snake that authorities say made an 870-kilometer (540-mile) journey to Sydney from a packing plant in the Australian city of Toowoomba wrapped in plastic with two heads of cos lettuce.
The refrigerated supermarket supply chain likely lulled the cold-blooded juvenile into a stupor until White bought the lettuce at an ALDI supermarket on Monday evening and rode his bicycle home with salad and snake in his backpack.
White and his partner Amelia Neate spotted the snake moving as soon as the lettuce was unpacked onto the kitchen table.
They also noticed the plastic wrapping was torn and that the snake could escape, so they quickly stuffed the reptile with the lettuce into a plastic food storage container.
White phoned the WIRES rescue organization and a snake handler took the snake away that night.
Before the handler arrived, White said WIRES had explained to him: “If you get bitten, you’ve got to go to hospital really quickly.”
ALDI is investigating how a snake could have found its way into a supermarket.
“We’ve worked with the customer and the team at WIRES to identify the snake’s natural habitat, which is certainly not an ALDI store!” the German-based supermarket chain said in a statement.
WIRES reptile coordinator Gary Pattinson said while the snake was less than 20 centimeters (8 inches) long, it was “as venomous as it will ever be.”
Pattinson is caring for the snake until it is returned to Queensland state next week, following the WIRES policy of returning rescued wildlife to where it comes from.
“It’s the first snake I’ve ever had in sealed, packed produce,” Pattinson said. “We get frogs in them all the time.”
Neate, a German immigrant, said her brush with a venomous snake in a Sydney kitchen was a setback in her efforts to assure relatives in Europe that Australia’s notoriously deadly Outback wildlife was nothing to worry about.
“For the last 10 years or so, I’ve told my family at home that Australia’s a really safe country,” Neate said.
“I’ve always said I’m just in the city; it’s totally fine here,” she added.