“Syrian refugees sell daughters in bid to survive”

CBS NEWS

By Clarissa Ward

(CBS News) AMMAN, Jordan — Um Majed’s cell phone rarely stops ringing these days. She calls herself a marriage broker; in reality, she sells Syrian girls to men looking for brides at bargain prices.

“Of course she’s thin,” she tells one client. “She’s been in a camp for a month.”

For many families living in Jordan’s refugee camps, selling their daughters into marriage is the only way to survive. Across the Middle East, it is the custom for the groom to pay the bride’s family, but their desperation is being exploited. Often the marriages are a sham, just a way to have sex. Some last only weeks.

Um Majed gets a cut for every match she makes. Young virgins fetch up to $5,000.

“You want me to get a younger one?” she asks one caller. “Thirteen, fourteen?”

Asked how it feels to marry off a 13-year-old girl, she replies, “Don’t ask me, ask the families. It’s the parents who feel it like a knife to their heart. … But what can they do? We’re in a state of war.”

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