Desperate Syrian women who find themselves refugees in Jordan can…sell themselves or their daughters, for usually a very small sum of money.
Her daughter Aya is their best hope.
“My daughter is willing to sacrifice herself for her family,” Nezar says. “If the war had not happened I would not marry my daughter to a Saudi. But the Syrians here are poor and have no money.”
Nezar’s daughter is 17. The Saudi groom is 70.
Maybe he’ll turn out to be a nice guy.
The surplus of desperate Syrian refugees means marriage has become a buyer’s market with some grooms offering as little as $100 cash for a bride.
The legal age of marriage in Jordan is 18 but some religious clerics will marry underage girls for a small fee. This puts the girls at even greater risk for exploitation because some of Um Majed’s clients want a temporary union lasting a few weeks or months after which the girl is returned to her parents.
In other words, it is religiously sanctioned prostitution.
“One of my brides has been married three, four times,” Um Majed says. “She is 15.”
So her family maybe got 400 whole dollars out of the deal.
“I have 10 families looking for grooms,” she says. “Their girls are between 12 and 21. The grooms are always in their 40s, 50s, or 70s. They want beautiful girls, the younger the better.”
She pauses and takes a drag of the cigarette.
“The Saudis usually ask for 12-year-olds.”
Oh do they.