Refugee crisis

Doctor recalls the suffering of 13-year-old Syrian refugee forced into marriage with 40-year-old

Women and children from the minority Yazidi sect walk to a refugee camp, fleeing Islamic State violence, after they re-entered Iraq from Syria. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal

When 13-year-old Aisha arrived at a clinic in Syria with her mother and her infant child in 2014, she would not allow the doctor to inspect her. Dr. Shelly Chvotzkin, a humanitarian doctor who has worked around the world, told Women’s eNews that Aisha refused treatment and would barely speak. Chvotzkin eventually found out that Aisha’s mother had arranged a marriage for Aisha when she was 11 to a 40-year-old Syrian man who promised the family safe transport to Jordan during the refugee crisis. Aisha became pregnant and had her baby at 12 after two miscarriages and an emergency Cesarean-section that left with her scars across her body.

“I died in Syria,” Aisha eventually told Chvotzkin.

Forced marriage of girls has become startlingly commonplace in the Syrian refugee population, according to the report, which cited a Save the Children finding that one in every four marriages among the refugees in Jordan now involves a girl under the age of 18. Girls are often denied education, job opportunities, and family ties, in addition to having children at early ages. Aisha’s mother, Rabia, told Chvotzkin she felt she had ruined her daughter’s life, and begged for birth control pills to prevent her daughter from getting pregnant again. Chvotzkin gave the pills to Aisha’s mother to help prevent the girl from getting pregnant again, a decision she still questions, and said it was clear the girl was suffering trauma and depression as a result of her experiences as a refugee and wife.

Read the full story at Women’s eNews.

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