Forced Into Marriage, Syrian Teen Engulfed by Abuse and Trauma

Almafrak, Jordan (female) — A small, frightened 13-year-old girl and her mother sat in a temporary clinic in the city, just 1.6 km from Arramsa, Syria, home to thousands of Syrian refugees. .. An informal camp since the start of the national civil war.

The child was holding a baby that was less than 6 months old.

Although it was a hot day in June 2014, the doctor who met them was Dr. Shelly Chvotzkin, an obstetrician and gynecologist in Fort Myers, Florida. Museum of Kyoto SalamSeattle-based humanitarian aid group.

The clinic’s waiting room (a renovated school in Almafrak) was waiting for hundreds of Syrians to see a few doctors at hand.

In a recent video chat, Chvotzkin said she noticed Aisha, whose real name has been withheld to keep her safe, and her mother in the waiting room. Aisha stared vaguely at the universe, and the baby hugged loosely.

When it was their turn, Aisha and her mother covered from head to toe, showing only their faces, and quietly moved to the treatment room.

“When I met her, she was just 13 years old, but she looked 10 years old,” Chvotzkin said. “The girl was scared. Quiet. Introverted. She was surprised.”

Aisha hugged her baby, dressed in pink, and wrapped in a pink blanket. She kept her head down and she never made eye contact with the doctor. Aisha’s mother made a fuss with her baby in tears without seeing her daughter’s face.

At first, Aisha refused to let Chvotzkin look up or touch her, so Chvotzkin told her mother that there was nothing she could do. Before she left, Aisha reluctantly showed her multiple scars to the doctor, but she still refused to be treated.

Chvotzkin learned that Aisha was 11 years old when her mother arranged to marry a Syrian man in her 40s who was smuggling people abroad. He promised his desperate widow and five mothers to take care of the whole family and safely take him to Jordan in exchange for her eldest daughter, Aisha.

Aisha gave birth to a baby at the age of 12 after two miscarriages. Her delivery was difficult. Her pelvis was too small for spontaneous delivery, and Chvotzkin said a brutal emergency caesarean section was to be performed by an untrained, unequipped doctor. She had to be transfused and remained heavily infected with a scar slice across her lower abdomen.

“I died in Syria”

Aisha died almost that day and six months later, and at the Almafrak clinic, Aisha gave Chvotzkin a glimpse of her broken mind and body. “I died in Syria,” she told the doctor.

Aisha committed suicide during pregnancy, Chvotzkin said. Her thin arms were covered with the scars of the incident.

Chvotzkin has been practicing medical care in the United States for several years when he decided to volunteer his skills to Syrian refugees in and around Jordan. “I have been a humanitarian in Third World countries for six years and have never seen them suffer like refugees in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan,” she said.

Chvotzkin remembers the day she saw Aisha in sadness. “She had long sleeves covering the scars on her arms, and her long dress covered the scars on her stomach,” she said. “But nothing covered her eyes, soul, or trauma to her heart.”

Since the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, an astonishing number of Syrian girls have encouraged marriage because parents can no longer afford them or as a form of “protection” against sexual violence in refugee camps and refugee camps. Or it is forced. Route to Europe.

Marriage of one in four Syrian refugee populations in Jordan now involves a girl under the age of 18. 2014 report Save the Children. Marriage of children is also increasing among Syrian refugees in other countries in the region, such as Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt and Turkey.

The impact on young girls can be disastrous. In addition to increasing the risk of death during childbirth, it often means that the girl is denied educational and financial opportunities and is isolated from her family and friends.

Syrian Women’s League veteran activist Saba al-Harak Middle East Eye She prefers the term “forced marriage” to “early marriage” because she believes that the main issue is not the age at which the girl gets married, but that is a concern. Rather, “in all cases, it’s not a girl.’Decision.”

Under Syrian law, and under normal circumstances, the minimum age for marriage is 17 for boys and 16 for girls. However, in many situations, religious leaders are allowed to make exceptions, allowing informal (religious) marriages between a 13-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy. The war in Syria increases the risk of abuse and exploitation. One of those situations.

As in Syria, the statutory age of marriage in Jordan is often ignored. Jordanian law sets a minimum marriage age of 18 for both boys and girls, but religious leaders may and often allow teens to marry between the ages of 15 and 17. .. Again, the war in Syria is responsible for such a situation.

Orphan girls at the Dar Alehsan Orphanage in Amman, Jordan.

Ethical dilemma

Chvotzkin learned more about Aisha when his mother returned a few days later. She confessed to Chvotzkin that she thought she was helping her daughter by agreeing to marry her an older Syrian man, shedding tears alone. She just wanted the best for her daughter. But now she feels she has destroyed her own life.

Her mother, Labia (a pseudonym), asked Chvotzkin to give her an oral contraceptive so that she could put it in her daughter’s milk every morning. She couldn’t bear the idea that her daughter would experience another pregnancy and childbirth pain. The scene became so desperate that Labia cried and begged her, so the Chvotzkin translator broke down and had to leave her clinic.

Chvotzkin called on a friend to help with the translation and console Rabia.

For Chvotzkin, the idea of ​​giving the mother a pill was an ethical dilemma, as the patient was supposed to speak for himself and seek his own free will medicine. But Chvotzkin also felt she didn’t want to have sex, let alone she didn’t want to get pregnant again. She said, “She knows what oral contraceptives do and I think she would take them voluntarily if she wasn’t in shock. After all, she didn’t want to have sex. That’s what she wanted. “

In the end, she gave Labia a five-month pill for her daughter.

Chvotzkin is still wondering if she made the right decision. “In addition, she could only give her a certain amount of oral contraceptives, and after her first six months she couldn’t follow up, so I felt uncomfortable about it. “

But she said she was guided by her instinct.

“You can give someone something to prevent the complications of something happening in their lives,” Chvotzkin said. “But in the end, we haven’t really tackled the main problem of children being raped and beaten every day for years until they actually addressed and addressed the problem at hand. May have had a direct impact on her health and ended her life. “

When she was alone with the doctor on her second visit, Labia told Chvotzkin that she lied to Aisha’s husband to come to the clinic. “If her husband notices, he will kill her,” Chvotzkin said angry. “If he finds out that I gave her mother her oral contraceptive, he will kill her too.”

They were allowed to go for a health check for two hours, and if they came home late, Aisha would be beaten. Her beatings are raped daily by her husband and are two reasons why Aisha committed suicide during her pregnancy, Chvotzkin said.

Silent for 6 months

Aisha, now 13 years old, has spoken only a few words since she gave birth to her baby six months ago, Chvotzkin said. Her condition is most likely the result of her trauma and postpartum depression, and her doctor said she could also explain why she never had a bond with her child. rice field.

Early marriages are often between young Syrian girls and other Syrian boys of similar age, usually cousins ​​or distant relatives. However, since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War, marriages have occurred more frequently between young girls and much older men, as in Aisha.

Chvotzkin acknowledged that marriage can bring security to vulnerable girls and their families, but said early marriage is often just another form of violence faced by young girls.

“I tend to pick up subtle signs of recent abuse and a history of abuse,” Chvotzkin said. “There are some issues with these young refugees.”

The girls and women she treated in Jordan and Syria faced multiple threats and outbreaks of abuse, Chvotzkin said, citing the story the girl told her.

Some were “attacked by the Assad regime and raped by Daesh. [ISIS] From the family, even a 12-year-old young daughter was sold to a socially ill person who promised a good future. “

Chvotzkin also works in Greece and accepts thousands of refugees daily on the small island of Lesvos. One of the Yazidi girls who arrived on Lesbos Island with her family on an inflatable raft showed signs of her abuse and trauma, she said. However, she did not receive treatment for the girl because her family was obsessed with advancing towards Germany as soon as possible.

“The biggest problem is that people are moving very fast,” said Boris Chesirkov, head of media relations at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on Lesbos, at a coastal cafe in the port of Mitilini on Lesbos last month. That is the fact. ” “They are in, registered, and out.”

This constant movement raises concerns among organizations seeking support for individuals or groups at risk. “A group of high-risk people does not necessarily have a safety net to be cared for or identified,” Chesirkov said. “And they don’t necessarily move forward because they want to continue their journey.”

The day Aisha and Labia came to her, Chvotzkin said she tried to persuade them to go to a safe place with her. But they couldn’t. The other four children of Labia were at home with her husband in Aisha, and if they left now, they couldn’t take the other children with them. It would have been.

Chvotzkin sees little how Aisha asks for help.

“In a conversation I had with her mother through an interpreter, her mother said that every aspect of her daughter’s life was completely controlled and monitored by her husband. Where she is always. If he didn’t know, there was a result. She would be beaten. She [the daughter] Men, apparently, were not allowed to talk to other non-Muslims or women who did not wear the hijab. She wasn’t allowed to call and she had no way to contact anyone. All the money for her family came through him. They had few choices and everyone was very obedient. “

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Written by Fem Society

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