Michael Rubin, Colunbia Tribune, 10/14/12
This may not be a big story in the West, but it is getting a lot of play on the Arabic satellite channels and here in Iraq:
Akram, a long-time Syrian resident of Jordan, says that in the Zaatari camp, which houses some 30,000 Syrian refugees in the desert near the border town of Mafraq, a new social phenomenon has spread that has come to be termed sutra or “cover” marriage, where refugees marry off their daughters, even at a very young age, to the first person who asks for their hand, under the pretext of “covering” their honor. He says he knows of one case in which a 70-year old Jordanian man wed a Syrian child of 12… “Cover” marriages started becoming more numerous and exploitative as a direct result of the atrocious living conditions in the camp, according to Nidal. Desperate refugees began looking for any way to extricate their children from impoverishment and misery. At the same time, Jordanian men seeking to marry increasingly took advantage of their dire situation.
There has never been any love for Saudis either among Shi’ites or among Sunnis throughout much of the Middle East. Rumors that the Saudi embassy and Saudi bureaus now facilitate the marriages of young Syrian girls to Saudis are spreading outrage. Self-righteous explanations that such marriages save girls and women from prostitution or being forced into other immoral behavior carry little water, as the same Saudis who allegedly are taking such children could just as easily provide charity to assist families who have fled the Syrian crackdown without seeking to exploit the situation.