Sex Trafficking in the largest Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, Al-Zaatari

I’m in Amman now for a cousin’s engagement ceremony this Friday, and today I went back to my study abroad program’s office near the University of Jordan and caught up with my old program directors. One of them was telling me how she visited the Al-Zaatari refugee camp, the largest Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, it has over 170,000 Syrian refugees…but no one really knows for certain. Currently there are over 1 million Syrian refugees in Jordan, a nation of only 6 million people to begin with. 

I was hearing about how, like most every refugee camp operation, Al-Zaatari is underfunded, under providing, and housing desperate, sick, and hopeless people. There are only 6 beds in their maternity ward and women aren’t allowed to stay for more than a couple of hours after they give birth, because you bet there are more who need to fall in place after them. They walk out of the maternity ward, their lives forever changed, without even a diaper for their newborn. Walking back through the muddy streets, to their housing situation, where they may be sharing a make-shift kitchen with 5 other families…who are not so thrilled to find one more mouth that now needs to be fed. 

Who do you blame? What should be done?

It took just a quick google search to find this article by the Daily Telegraph. 

“Syrian girls ‘sold’ into forced marriages” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9821946/Syrian-girls-sold-into-forced-marriages.html

Here are some selected paragraphs, but the whole thing is worth reading.

The International Rescue Committee recently published a report that found rape is now a “significant and disturbing” feature of the Syrian civil war, with women and girls citing this as a principle motive for escaping from the country.

Even once they have left Syria though, they are not safe. Sitting in a flimsy dust covered tent in the crowded Zataari refugee camp, Zainab, an elderly mother of two daughters said: “Men are coming here to take young girls as second wives. It is under the pretext of being charitable, of helping us.”

Guards at Zataari camp told The Daily Telegraph that they had frequently received requests by Arab men, mainly from Jordan or Saudi Arabia, to be given access to the camp so that they could find a “nice young bride”.

United Nations officials and aid agencies estimate that at least 500 under age Syrians have been married this year.

Mr Hamad’s charity has become one of the bodies connecting male suitors with Syrian brides, but he insists that the practice is not abusive because of the strict restrictions in place:

The Daily Telegraph followed Wissam as he posed as a client interested in marrying a girl: “I want a cheap Syrian girl,” said Wissam, with his phone on loudspeaker. “In Zarqa we have married 16 for a dowry cost of 2000JD,” came the reply. The men proceeded to bargain, with Wissam quoting lower figures than he said he had been offered in other camps.

“Before the revolution it cost several times that sum to marry a Syrian girl. Now it has become the running joke in Jordan that if you are running low on cash or finding it hard to get married, you should marry a Syrian girl,” said Wissam. “It has become a business transaction

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