The costs of marriage in wartime weigh heavily on youth

The costs of marriage in wartime weigh heavily on youth
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Date: Monday, 01 June 2020


 Piggy banks, 'no extravagance' measures, and initiatives are all insufficient solutions.

"He who has no money must never think about marrying in his life".


Note: The report was completed last March.


After twelve years of love and waiting, when Yamen and Sally started seriously thinking about marriage according to the conditions of the religious system and traditions, the following dialogue takes place between them, “What do you think, we cancel the wedding, go with my family and yours, in ordinary clothes, and get married in the church without all these expenses?”


Yamen (30 years old), who sells groceries at a supermarket in Damascus countryside, did not ask the question of stinginess or evading his promise for his sweetheart to achieve everything that she was planning to do on "the night of her life", but because the costs became "fire and flame" after ten years of war, and because such a night extends from the morning to prepare the bride and groom, until the wedding time, and ending with the party, it has become a cost of "on the narrow and without plenty" according to the estimates of the young people who participated in this investigation, five million Syrian pounds, which is equivalent to five thousand US dollars or it increases, according to the fluctuating dollar exchange rate.


Perhaps this number is not considered much to a young man from one of the Arab countries, where the monthly income is proportional to the value of the expenses, and it cannot be considered an amount to be taken under consideration for a young Syrian of a rich class, but for another Syrian middle-class and below this number is an unattainable number, which requires Collecting ten years of continuous work, he deducts from his monthly salary, which ranges between forty and sixty thousand Syrian pounds.


These costs apply to preparations for engagement and wedding of different denominations or religions. The traditions of weddings between Islam and Christianity are closely related, and are supplemented with special frills. It begins with the proposal, then the wedding dress, followed by the stage of preparing the bride's house, buying the clothes, or what is known to some as "Al-Jihaz" (preparation), then inviting the guests, setting the wedding day, and its conclusion is with a singing and dancing party at night.


The current youth generation has created amendments, such as that the partner surprises his partner with "Proposal", which is the English vocabulary that has replaced in the vocabulary dictionary its Arabic counterpart, "proposing for marriage", and take her hand in front of a group of friends, without any little presence for the family, and another thing is to give up some What was prevalent from the rituals that were recognized as motivated by the fact that they became obsolete and not suitable for the age, such as giving up the habit of sticking the dough that the bride was affixed to the door of the newly married house upon her arrival.


From a legal and lawful point of view, the Syrian Personal Status Law issued in 1953 regulates family issues of marriage, divorce, inheritance, and custody, and it applies to all Syrians, giving independency in the provisions of Articles 307 and 308 related to Christians, Druze and Jews.



Surveys about reality


The high prices of basic and non-basic necessities, the index of which has been characterized in the past ten years by instability and a permanent rise, has led to the fact that the cost of living for a Syrian family of five people per month ranges to 400,000 Syrian pounds for this year, which made a clear reflection of attending of girls and young men for Marriage, which is the only available outlet for relationships and living a shared life.


It was observed through interviews conducted by the investigator randomly in the city of Damascus with eleven young men, because they bear, in most cases, the greater financial burden of the costs of marriage and living, nine of them exclude getting married because of the financial status, two of them have no desire to ret in a relationship at the present time, or until they find the right partner, and two cases of two young men whose engagement period lasted for years, but the impossibility of improving their financial conditions made their fate; separation.


In a poll conducted by the investigator of one of the specialized groups on Facebook, the female participants were asked the following question: “If you admire a person or are engaged to him and intend to get married, but financial conditions do not help him much, can you dispense with some aspects of the wedding? If you answered "yes" please, mention what you can do without".


47 girls out of 54 of the survey participants, whose ages ranged from 20 to 35, expressed their willingness to give up the whole wedding, or some of its expenses, such as gold jewelrys, or being satisfied with a small party at home, based on the idea that "the wedding and showing off have become very expensive". And that, “Whatever we'll do, people will talk about us,” all for the sake of a moment of “sincere love and connection with a young man of high morals,” in order to establish the family, which is considered a basic pillar in the Syrian society and gives them psychological and emotional stability. While 7 of them expressed their unwillingness to give up a life of luxury and wealth, because "money is the most important thing in this world."


A comprehensive sieving of expenses


Sally started saving money two years ago. And because her origins are from Damascus, and her fiancé is from As-Suwayda, it is customary for them to come to a “jaha”, and she considers it to be the honor of the girl, and includes a group of elders from the groom’s family, asking her parents to give them their approval. It is assumed that on a night like this one, will be served a fancy dinner, and exclusively Arabic sweets. However, the cost of dinner, which amounts to 200 thousand Syrian pounds, made dispensing with the "jaha" a realistic matter.


When preparing for the engagement, which is considered a compulsory familial and social bond, but it is not officially legal, Sally was planning to hold a "long and wide" (big) party, because she wanted "everything to be complete and whole," but the cost borne by the bride's family, according to Syrian traditions, exceeded 250 thousand Syrian pounds, she said. It includes a reservation for a church hall that can accommodate a hundred guests, and an open buffet that includes drinks and some baked goods of Zaatar and muhammara, but instead she preferred to have dinner with her family and her fiancé's family only in one of the old Damascus restaurants, to reduce expenses.


The wreath was held in the Church of the Cross in the Qasaa neighborhood on June 6, 2020. At first, Sally insisted not to enter her rented marital home with old used furniture, but she was forced after the dollar started in the summer of last year to gradually increase from 500 Syrian pounds to what More than a thousand, to start searching for a used "set of furniture", the price of which does not exceed 200 thousand pounds, and instead of buying bridal clothes, including satin and chiffon nightgowns, and pajamas embroidered with "dantiel", she just bought some pieces that are suitable for normal daily use.


To illustrate the disappointment that she felt, she says: “I'm very much sad, that I could not do the thing that I wanted. I mean even a "Jihaz" (preparing) we did not do, because I did not bring something to boast about in front of people. And the honeymoon that we used to think about doing outside Syria, well, it become Two days or three in "kasb", also I canceled the wedding evening, because it costs a million Syrian pounds, even it was for close people."


 Caustic prices and initiatives


On the visit of the investigative reporter to one of the gold shops in the Al-Sagha Market in Al-Bazouriyah, to interview the owner of the store, a woman enters in her late thirties with a younger brown man, offers to Abu Adonis, the owner of the shop, to sell a bracelet from the set of six bracelets that she bought In 2013, “the days when a gold gram was 6000 Syrian pounds”, and the reason for that is that she wants to help the young man who turned out to be her brother in concluding his marriage to a girl who engaged two years ago.


Within an hour of the interview, no one came to buy a piece of gold, and this is no longer rare, because the rise in its price to 48,000 Syrian pounds per gram for 21 carats and 41,000 Syrian pounds for the price of 18 carats is a major factor in the reluctance of those entering marriage to buy gold. Abu Adonis confirms this by saying: "We are now buying used gold more than selling. No one can buy except for those who have to. And what do they buy, have a guess? Just a ring. I mean, we pearly sell a ring or two per day".


Going back to the past ten years from now, when a dollar was equal to 47 Syrian pounds, and the price of one gram of 18-carat gold had increased to 1,200 Syrian pounds, a middle-class young man could buy for his fiancée about 150 grams of gold, at a price that would not exceed 200,000 Syrian pound, but at the present time the price of this quantity is 6 million and 600 thousand pounds.



Models have changed too. Artistic bracelets studded with stones, engraved with multiple engravings, and attached to a ring of the same design, and wide necklaces with interconnected rings, are no longer on the list of purchases of those wishing to get engaged. They are replaced by what jewelers call "simple set", it is nothing more than 15 grams of gold 18, and its price is 600 thousand Syrian pounds, and it consists of a light necklace from which it hangs "leaves" in the form of a heart or a butterfly, it is accompanied by a ring, most likely, and a bracelet with an earring, in case the groom's financial condition permits.


Returning to the survey conducted by the investigative reporter, in which she asked the participants about the possibility of dispensing with gold due to its high price. 37 out of 45 expressed their sufficiency in a ring in order to complete the marriage contract, while 4 refused to dispense with what is considered their right, and 3 stipulated buying another light piece with the ring, and one girl expressed her remorse for the concessions she made after her separation from her fiancé.

What is indispensable is independence in the home, even if it is rented. The cost of equipping a house of no more than sixty meters, consisting of two rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom, reach to two and a half million Syrian pounds, and the equipment is ordinary and does not contain "much". The bedroom wood will not be oak, and the electrical equipment is not of the "LG" brand, as the price of a 24-foot refrigerator reaches one million pounds, and the price of a 7-kilogram washing machine is 430 thousand pounds.


To solve this crisis, which led many young people to not consider marriage, initiatives appear from time to time that do not lead to radical solutions for everyone, including the initiative adopted by the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate in Aleppo at the beginning of this year to encourage marriage. It was restricted to members of the Syriac community, and included covering the house rent for one year, childbirth expenses, and children's necessities in the first year of their lives, and their education in the sect's schools in Aleppo for free in the elementary school years, in addition to an amount of one million Syrian pounds.


Continuous work and piggy banks


Those who are not covered by these initiatives have the option to wait until conditions improve, separate, or work day and night. Rasha and her fiancé Ahmed preferred the last option, both of whom were 24 years old. Rasha says, "Ahmed and I worked a lot to get to the day of the engagement. I work in a clothing store, and my shift was from nine in the morning to eight in the evening, and my salary is 40 thousand Syrian pounds, but later I decided to do my shift to 11 at night, my salary would be 65 thousand."


The two lovers were deprived since the beginning of their acquaintance in 2016, and to adapt to it they adopted a series of measures, the aim of which was to collect money in preparation for engagement and marriage, and was represented by many "No" entitled "No to prowling". No to eating a meal in any restaurant, no to spending money on buying clothes and luxury items, no to smoking more than one pack of cigarettes after the price rose to 800 pounds.


During the preparation period for the engagement and what came after it, she bought about twenty plastic and metal piggy banks in which to keep the big amount of her monthly salary, contenting herself with putting only a few thousand in her bag as an expense for the road fare, in addition to participating in countless associations, which is an agreement between a group of people, they are required to pay a certain amount every month, and the total receives one person each time.


To ease the burden on them before the wedding date comes next summer, Rasha persuaded her fiancé to volunteer in the government army, so that he would get a salary of 75,000 Syrian pounds and obtain military housing in Damascus. She does not support the idea of ​​paying at least one hundred thousand pounds as a monthly house rent, because it is an amount that "breaks the back", and she is well aware that buying a house in the suburbs will not be at a price less than 15 million pounds, and this matter may not be possible to achieve.


Alternative solutions


While working on opinion polls among young people in the streets of Damascus, three of them, twenty-five years old, and students of the College of Informatics, who were sitting on a bench in Al-Sobky Park, suggested that "cohabitation" is a practical solution and a salvation from the material "turmoil" in which young men and girls are implicating themselves, and exempts them from seeking to complete the appearances of boring and laughable weddings, as described by them.


"cohabitation" is defined as an agreement between two people who live together without marriage, on the basis of an intimate romantic or sexual connection, that lasts for a long time or temporarily, and it is a purely western aspect, but it did not occupy a space of interest in Syrian society, whether in acceptance or absolute rejection, except in the past few years.



It only requires renting a small room, and exempts both parties from years of delay and waiting, and seeking to secure the costs of marriage. Although signing a contract between two cohabiting parties can be completed with a lawyer to preserve their full rights, cases that take this pattern of engagement in Syria remain mostly unannounced.


Radwan, 24, who is from Aleppo and lives in Damascus, supports cohabitation as a solution to the situation of a young man like him. Radwan studies at the banking institute, and works in a shop that sells women's clothing, at a rate of ten hours a day, and he earns 60 thousand pounds a month. He has had a relationship with a girl for three years, but she cannot agree with him about cohabitation. Radwan says, "I very much accept the idea of ​​cohabitation, but the problem is always in society, and the family does not have mercy. Believe me, the idea that our relationship will end is not excluded because the pressure on which we live is so big, and no matter how much we wait, I would not see a solution for my situation even after ten years".


 Dissenting opinion


Muhammad (27 years), from Hama, and lives in Damascus, believes that his personal experience is not very different from being cohabiting.

Four months ago, Lina sent him a friend request on Facebook, they met each other for a month, and then they decided to get married. Since Muhammad does not have money except what he earns from his intermittent work in cleaning floors, Lina agreed to live with him without costing him a single pound at all, and after a long argument with her family, she was able to convince them of what she wanted.


Lina describes her family’s position by saying: “My family certainly didn’t be convinced right away, and they objected the most because he doesn’t have any money, but as you know the time has changed, and the girl has become able to choose the boy she sees good for her, meaning I would not accept that my mother or my aunt would choose for me Like old days". On this basis, they rented a basement room, containing a kitchen and a small bathroom, in the Al-Tadamon area at a price of 50,000 pounds a month, and went to court to complete the marriage contract in order to avoid "gossip."


Within days of his marriage, Muhammad realized that he had thrown himself into great trouble. Marriage, which cost zero and is the only framework through which sex can be engaged in a way that satisfies religion and society, has brought it to a stage where he got in debt to bay electricity and communications bills. "From the beginning of the new year, my work is almost standing, and the thing that keeps me awake at night is that my responsibility and expenses increased, after I was alone and managed my expenses. Very briefly, whoever has no money should not think of getting married with his life. If this month we could get our food, the month After we cannot eat. "


Roots of the past


In order to clarify the ineffectiveness of partial solutions from the basic problem that bears an economic nature in the first place, which worsened during the war years, and led to an imbalance at the social level, it must be noted that the Syrian labor participation rate decreased to 40.8 according to a detailed report by the Center for Statistics and Economic Information. It was published in December 2019, while this participation was higher in 2010, at a rate of 43,046, which reflects the reality of high unemployment and the decline in the Syrian labor market, which the young people need in order to secure their future in engagement and others.


A study published by the Syrian Center for Policy Research titled "The Syrian Crisis ... Economic and Social Roots and Effects" explains that the current crisis factors that have deteriorated into an internal armed conflict causing tragic effects on human, social and economic capital, were nothing but the result of previous policies, in which the Syrian economy achieved results. Conflicting in the first decade of the year 2000, on the one hand it had positive results on price stability and low public indebtedness, but at the same time it created structural imbalances with the expansion of the informal sector in trade, tourism and public services, and a class of businessmen monopolizing the work environment, and this was accompanied by productivity Low labor and low wages, and this is what made it reach unbearable losses for current and future generations.


A video report published by Al-Jazeera in 2010 stated that the rate of reluctance to marry in Syria at that time reached fifty percent, due to poverty, the lack of job opportunities for young people, and the high costs of marriage, including dowries, which ranged from ten to twenty thousand dollars.


The difference that can be noticed now is the differences in percentages and prices only, and the current circumstances have exacerbated it to an extent that is no longer reasonable, which led to four out of five Syrians living in the interior below the poverty line, according to a UNICEF statistic issued in August 2019. It necessarily reflects negatively on young people in achieving aspirations and desires for connection and obtaining housing, especially since everything in the consumer lifestyle revolves around money and the possibility of obtaining it, although it is necessary to take in consideration the percentages of the survey of girls' opinions in this investigation, which showed that the insistence on The manifestations of the wedding are no longer mandatory, the urgent need remains for the ability to achieve financial sufficiency after marriage.






UNICEF: "Fast Facts on the Syrian Crisis 2019".


Center for Statistics and Economic Information: “Syrian labor participation rate.”


The Syrian Center for Policy Research: “The Syrian crisis ... the roots and the economic and social impacts.”



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