3 min read  | Gender, Homs, Interviews

Islamic State ‘forcing’ underage girls to marry in Palmyra


September 30, 2015

The Local Coordination Council (LCC) in Palmyra has documented 17 instances of marriage between Islamic State (IS) fighters and female Palmyran residents since they captured the desert town and its ancient ruins from regime forces in May. Three of the forced brides were reportedly minors, Nasir a-Thaer, a member of the LCC in Palmyra, tells Syria Direct.

These marriages are forced,” a spokesman for the pro-opposition Homs Media Center, Mohammad al-Homsi, tells Syria Directs Hadi Ahmed Shaaben, adding that families are coerced into marrying off their daughters and too afraid” to oppose IS memberswishes.

Thousands of Palmyras residents have since fled to Homs city where al-Homsi spoke to several about forced marriages.

Not only does IS consider underage marriage to be permissible according to Islam,” but they view it as a practice that keeps young women from committing vice,” says al-Homsi.

They do not recognize the social principles that have developed that give young women the right to work, the right to an education.

Q: Is the marrying off of underage girls a conventional practice in the Syrian countryside or does the Islamic State (IS) force this upon them? How does this happen?

IS argues that underage marriages are permissible according to Islam. They do not recognize the social principles that have developed that give young women the right to work, the right to an education, etc. Moreover, they say that underage marriage helps to prevent young women from committing vice and zina [forbidden sexual activity].

These marriages are forced. IS threatens to charge families with apostasy or with other crimes such as indecency if they refuse to marry off their daughters to its members. Families are afraid of what might happen if they do not comply.

Q: Does IS offer protections to families in exchange for marriage?

Every member of IS considers it his duty to protect the family of the girl he is married to.

Q: Is there a difference between the dowries that foreign IS fighters and Arab IS fighters offer to their brides?

In most of the cases that we know of, the dowry ranges between SP50,000 ($264.85) and SP100,000 ($529.70).

The dowry that is offered to the bride is roughly the same regardless of the background of the IS fighter. All IS members consider themselves to be a single unit, and they do not distinguish between themselves. The dowry that a fighter offers comes from his own share of the spoils that he has received. The only difference is that foreign fighters pay the dowry in dollars and not in Syrian pounds.

Q: How are these marriages registered since the Islamic State has gotten rid of identification documents as a way to symbolize allegiance to a new state?

There are offices called Diwans in Palmyra, like in every IS-controlled region, which issue identification documents as well as marriage and birth certificates. The Diwans are equivalent to civil registries and provide identifications and documents carrying the stamp of the Islamic State.

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