Early marriage and abandonment of new-born babies | Worrying phenomena threaten Syria’s future
Not only have adults and elderly people been affected by the Syrian crisis, but also babies have fallen victims of hunger and extreme poverty which have been battering over 90 percent of Syrian people at a time when a civilian lives on less than one US dollar a day, which cannot enable them to secure their basic needs. The United Nations has described the situation in the entire Syrian geography as “the worst” in the past few years.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has documented the death, recruitment and deformation of hundreds of thousands of children, especially after the wave of escalating violence which started in 2013. Meanwhile, over six million children live on humanitarian support, if available, while others have been forced to displace with their families from their homes and live in makeshift camps. Some families have failed to secure food for their babies, which spurred them to get rid of their babies by leaving them in streets and dumpsters. This worrying phenomenon has motivated feminist associations and human rights organisations, like the Syrian Observatory, to release frequent calls and campaigns warning about the repercussions of early marriage. With these little mothers being unable to take care of or secure food for their babies, who were born whether under official and traditional marriage or after rape of these girls, they find themselves, on many occasions, are forced to abandon their new-born babies or even to do very hard work to be able to secure needed expenses.
Syrian feminist associations has addressed the phenomenon of early marriage and motherhood, clarifying that minor girls are forced by their families to get married, so that the families will not burden expenses of their daughters any more, especially with the current dire living conditions. Accordingly, these minor girls lose their dreams after being forced to drop out of school and thrown to an uncertain future.
Early marriage has not been a novel phenomenon in Syria. However, this phenomenon has been prevalent further during the war, where many girls have fallen victims of obsolete traditions.
Recently, abandonment of new-born babies has reached alarming levels. A few days ago, residents found a baby girl aged a few days inside a well in Homs city, after they heard her cry. The residents managed to took the baby out of the well and transferred her to hospital. This was the fourth case of abandonment of new-born babies since early 2022. The first case was of a ten-month-old girl who was found in Lattakia in January. The second case was of a 40-day-old boy called “Fagr” who was found in Hama also in January. While, the third case was of a baby girl whose age did not exceeded a month, and she was found in Al-Salamiyah city in Hama countryside, in February, at the entrance of a medical clinic.
The war in Syria has led to a stifling economic hardship; this, in turn, has led to a disastrous social situation in light of the increasing rate of early marriage under the rule of greedy war lords, disruption of education and schooling after schools had been destroyed due to violent battles and ongoing bombardment and the prevalence of militiamen who have made a career of kidnapping people and asking for ransoms for their release.
In addition, many areas throughout Syria lack the basic standards of services, amid unavailability to deliver support to all inhabitants in refugee camps and remote areas.
Some analysts see that the escalation of the phenomenon of abandonment of babies is attributed to the dire living conditions of Syrian people, as well as giving birth to children of unknown parentage due to relations out of wedlock and sexual attacks that girls throughout Syria are subjected to.
In an exclusive SOHR interview, the feminist activist and regime opponent, Soad Khabiyah says “I have conducted surveys on the miscarriage of minor girls in Syria, as the war has affected the Syrian society and contributed to creating phenomena that have never been exist in Syria. The ‘diseases’ caused by the ramifications of Syria’s war have become familiar in light of the plethora of almost-daily reports and news on the sufferings of Syrian children, including reports on finding babies dumped near mosques and dumpsters. The number of women have become large, if compared with low marriage prospects. Furthermore, the number of widows and divorced women has been alarmingly increased. These widows and divorced women have become breadwinners responsible for earning their living and securing the needs of their children, and with the current disastrous living conditions, they are exposed to exploitation, both economically and sexually. Accordingly, some women have become mothers of children of unknown parentage while some others with legitimate children find themselves unable to provide basic essentials to them, which spurs these mothers to abandon their babies. On the other hand, some women who have given birth to children of unknown parentage cannot register their children, as Syria’s laws reject using the mother’s name to be the surname of an illegitimate child. Being unable to register their children and feeling ‘shame’ in a society which assigns unjustifiably the responsibility for ‘violating morals and values’ on them and considers them as ‘deviants’, these mothers therefore prefer to get rid of their children. While there are no specified institutions entrusted to take care of these children. The society does neither acknowledge of such phenomena nor seeks to reach workable solutions preserving the rights of these children who have committed no guilt.”
Mrs. Khabiyah adds, “in Syria, there are no laws allowing and organising miscarriage. Women who have got pregnant after an illegal relationship cannot ask for help at any medical centres or doctors to have miscarriages, so they try to keep their pregnancy as secret or to have miscarriages in wrong ways; this, in turn, may cause serious medical issues which leads to hemorrhage and death. In general, reaching solutions for such issues in Syria is not easy, as these issues cannot come an end before reaching a state of stability in Syria, where the authorities are able to provide appropriate care to all women and establish centres to rehabilitate the women who have been victims of war and take care of widows, divorced women and girls, so that they will not be exploited, sexually abused or forced to involve into relationships leading to children of unknown parentage. Relevant authorities have to review laws framing these issues, as evading discussing and addressing these issues will contribute to prevailing unwelcome phenomena further. Diligent efforts have to be exerted to increase the society’s awareness via media and by paying visits to the victims and addressing such issues openly and humanely.”