Saudi Men Buy Syrian Minors for Sex

Saudi Men Buy Syrian Minors for Sex
Photo by Ira Gelb

Men in Saudi Arabia are buying Syrian refugee women, who flee to neighbouring countries from the ongoing civil war in their hometown, as brides or sex slaves. According to media reports, the oldest men are the most eager to buy the youngest girls at the highest rates. Since the men can afford multiple wives, some girls are bought and kept for only a few weeks, before they are sold again, presumably for lower rates.

“My daughter is willing to sacrifice herself for her family. If the war had not happened, I would have married my daughter to anyone but a Saudi but the Syrians here are poor and they have no money,” said Nezar, a Syrian refugee. His daughter is 17 and she has been married to a groom of 70.

Buying underage girls for sex is neither illegal nor seen as prostitution under the Shiite interpretation of Islam. The religious practice called nikah mutah is basically a convenience marriage that can last for only a few minutes or go on for years. A divorce too, is included in the agreement. In Saudi Arabia, a rich buyer will pay a few thousand dollars for a girl he wants to have sex with until he is tired of her. Then the girl is returned to her family so she can be “married” again.

Um Majed, a local matchmaker said, “Some brides are sold for as little as $100. One of my brides has been married three, four times. She is 15. I have 10 families looking for grooms. Their girls are between 12 and 21. The grooms are in their 40s, 50s, or 70s.”

Majed became a matchmaker when she went to a local Islamist charity in search of food and the manager inquired if she knew any pretty girls. Nikah mutah is frequently used as a religious cover for sex tourism in the Jordanian desert, where poverty is at its peak and teenage girls can be found for sex trade at low rates.

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