Sahar wished she could slap that Saudi sheikh, just like she had slapped taxi drivers asking her to provide them with young Syrian girls. But instead she just said “no” and told him that if he shows up at that mosque again she will cut his beard. Then she says she left, slamming the door. It wasn’t just an accident, neither was it just one sheikh who asked her to serve as a matchmaker.
A few months later, another Saudi sheikh approached her at the mosque: He wanted a young Syrian girl to marry and he was wondering whether she could find him a bride, for a fee, of course. Sometimes she gets such proposals from taxi drivers. “Once, I was in a taxi and the driver approached me. There was this Lebanese sheikh who wanted to marry a Syrian girl. ‘He will give you money, and he will also give that woman money,’ he told me. I slapped him, as usual,” she recalled.
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But not many think like Sahar does. Young women get sold off for a week to men willing to pay. Taxi drivers ask around about young girls aged 16-17; deals are made in the streets of Tripoli. “I have refused to do this, but many people don’t.”
Some people make a business out of trafficking women for rich foreigners, says Ayman Hariri, a Syrian activist who settled in Akkar in 2011 when he had to flee Daraa fearing arrest. He used to run an NGO that provided aid for Syrian refugees, but he decided to close it down. Trying to provide aid is difficult, with some aid organizations using their small NGOs to sell 16-year-old girls to their Gulf sponsors in exchange for money.
“I can tell you about someone I know, I met him in person and he offered to bribe me. He posed as a sheikh with a Saudi benefactor. People soon found out his organization was actually what you call a whorehouse: He was getting girls for the Saudi sheikh. If he liked the girl, he would offer $10,000, he would marry her for a week, and then she would go back home with $1,000. The rest was given to the so-called Lebanese sheikh, who now owns a building and has several cars,” Hariri explains.
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Most NGOs that deal with women’s rights in Lebanon are concerned by the increasing number of early marriages among Syrian refugees. According to UNHCR’s refugee response plan, 10% of Syrian refugee women and Lebanese women in host communities have been exposed to gender-based violence, including early marriage, rape, and domestic violence. To cope with poverty, Syrian girls are married off very early, sometimes for money, sometimes for protection.
Read the rest: Syrian Girls Sold to Rich Muslims