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Cheap weddings are encouraging Syrians to marry younger, more often in besieged Homs province

By Yarub Dali and Justin Clark

HOMS: Couples are marrying younger and in greater numbers in parts of opposition-controlled Syria, despite low employment, lack of housing and a high cost of living, a judge at the Homs Sharia Court tells the Syrian Voice

Though siege by the Syrian regime has made jobs and even basic amenities scarce, it’s also lowered the cost of a traditional Syrian marriage, say Rastan’s local newlyweds and family affairs lawyer.

“Before the revolution, the cost of a wedding party alone was about SP100,000 ($2,000),” says 23-year-old Muhannad Saad a-Din, who was legally married last year in Rastan. “But now, there’s no expense for a wedding party. We just visit relatives and family to declare the marriage.”

Other aspects of the marriage are also simplified, explains Saad a-Din. “Dowries, the bride’s outfit, and buying gifts of gold aren’t as important as they were before the war. It’s just not possible with how the economy is here in Homs.”

Joining the “ranks” of the married

Though early marriage was not uncommon in Syria before the war, in the absence of mandatory military service and functioning universities young people are finding fewer reasons to delay getting hitched.

“Since Rastan is no longer under government control, I don’t have to do military service,” Abdelrahman al-Ashtar, 25, tells the Syrian Voice. “Instead, I joined the ranks of the married! With so many of my friends getting married there’s an atmosphere that encourages it.”

“The bride’s family understood my position,” explains al-Ashtar. “Her father didn’t make me pay a high dowry, and her family didn’t ask for me to bring my wife gifts that I couldn’t afford. The wedding didn’t cost more than SP300,000 ($600), whereas the average total cost of getting married before the war was SP500,000 ($5,000).”

The war has also erased social divides that might have prevented marriages previously, explains Tariq Faziz, a lawyer who works in family affairs. “Everyone suffers equally with unemployment, displacement, and instability,” he tells the Syrian Voice.

“I have to provide for my children”

What worries Faziz, however, is that young men might be rushing to get married without considering how challenging it might be to provide for their future families in Rastan.

Rastan has been under opposition control since 2012 and has witnessed fierce fighting between the government and rebel groups over the past four years. The government has encircled the northern Homs countryside and frequently bombs the area.

Just because marriage is easier doesn’t mean that life after marriage will be easier, warns Faziz. The siege, the absence of jobs, and the rising cost of living means that providing for a wife and kids is harder than it’s ever been for families in the Homs countryside, he explains.

Asmar Taqs was married in 2013 in Rastan, and is now the father of two children at the age of 21.

“When I got married I didn’t think I rushed, I figured I was mature and ready for the experience,” he tells the Syrian Voice.

“But now I have to provide for my children when there is no work to be found.”

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