ZAATARI REFUGEE CAMP, Jordan—Child marriage among Syrian girls in the Zaatari refugee camp is on the rise. The practice of child marriage is not new among Syrians refugees in Jordan; in fact, it has received extensive attention since the war in Syria began. But a related phenomenon goes largely overlooked: child divorce.
Laura Dean is a journalist reporting from the Middle East and Europe. Previously, she was the Senior Middle East Correspondent for GlobalPost, writing from Egypt and other parts of the Middle East and North Africa. Dean formerly worked as an election observer with with the Carter Center in Tunisia and Libya and served on the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington, DC. Her work has appeared in The New Republic, Slate.com, Foreign Policy, The London Review of Books blog and The Globe and Mail, among other publications. Dean grew up in Bahrain and graduated from the University of Chicago. She speaks French and Arabic.
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AMMAN, Jordan—The Jordanian government is “between two fires,” as goes the Arabic formulation of “between a rock and a hard place.” Jordan has watched car bombs claimed by the Islamic State explode in Turkey and Lebanon. The three nations’ shared proximity to Syria places them at risk of IS activity but also means they will need to take in large numbers of refugees. As Jordan sees attacks in Syria’s other neighbors, security is a top priority. To date, Jordan has taken in almost a million Syrians, and their presence inside its borders is tightly controlled.
IDOMENI, Greece—Water-logged, mud-sodden, hungry and tired, and waiting on the Greece-Macedonia border are 11,000 of the people whose fate the European Union and Turkey decided recently at their refugee meeting. Many sold everything they had—houses, land, jewelry, mobile phones—to make the dangerous crossing from Turkey to Greece in hopes of finding a safer life. Everyone I’ve spoken to at Idomeni camp is devastated by the EU-Turkey accord.
IDOMENI, Greece—“If we stay here like this we’re going to start eating each other’s flesh” says Um Sabry, a Syrian woman from Afrin.
GAZIANTEP, Turkey—“I was 13 when we got married. We didn’t know anything about life. My husband was five years older than me. He’s very handsome, my husband….God have mercy on his soul.” Hala’s eyes fill but she does not cry.
She types “hahaha” in Arabic on Whatsapp to her mother-in-law, who has just made a dark joke about not having money to get to Turkey from their hometown outside Aleppo.
IDOMENI, Greece—Four hours to wash your hair, 13 to have your papers corrected, two or three for a sandwich.
“We’re living a life of lines,” says one man wryly.
GAZIANTEP, Turkey—”This looks so much like the countryside around Aleppo,” says Dr. Diaa Abdullah as we drive past green and rust-colored hills and olive groves between the Southeastern Turkish towns of Gaziantep and Kilis. While in Istanbul or Izmir, the war in Syria feels very far away—more than a thousand miles in fact—here there are street signs that point the way to Aleppo. “The culture of the people here reminds me a lot of Syria,” he adds.