Traditional customs persist in Syrian marriages in Turkey

A couple during a photo session - January 16, 2024 (Facebook/Mohammad H Hammod)

A couple during a photo session - January 16, 2024 (Facebook/Mohammad H Hammod)


Enab Baladi – Wafa Abido

Despite millions of Syrians seeking refuge in various countries and being exposed to different societies, traditions, and customs still dominate their marriage decisions based on the regions from which they originate, albeit with some exceptions.

Some of these traditions and concepts have become a norm that plays a role in the success of marital relationships by choosing a life partner from a specific community or province, such as looking for resemblance in thought, habits, and traditions, as well as the city or region they came from.

Preserving the norm

“Those like us come to us,” says Sana, 48, for choosing a wife for her son Mahmoud, a practice followed by her family when selecting a partner, explaining that she was married in a similar way.

Sana lives with her family in Istanbul, originating from the province of Daraa. Due to the lack of relatives around her, she posted on Facebook in groups restricted to girls, looking for a bride for her son from the same province with good morals and residence in Istanbul.

Sana explained that she goes to see the girl she communicates with through the post, then decides if she is suitable for her son in terms of family, morals, and characteristics, which is the “norm” in her society. If Sana finds a potential for compatibility, the rest will proceed according to traditions, as she expressed.

Her son Mahmoud, 28, does not find a problem with this way of choosing a partner, as he sees his parents’ marriage as successful, and he needs a similar marriage from the environment he was born in to build a family like his parents, as he told Enab Baladi.

Different societies

Rula, 40, from the countryside of Damascus and residing in Istanbul, sees that Syrians are divided into several communities, and within the same province, there may be more than one community with distinct customs and norms that differ entirely or partially from the others.

Rula followed the way of the community she grew up in to marry off her daughter, believing that it is necessary to choose a compatible partner in habits to avoid social conflicts after marriage. As she puts it, “Whoever does not marry from his community will die of his ailment.”

She confirmed that she refused to marry off her daughter to a man from a certain province because he belonged to a community whose habits are radically different from theirs. She married off her daughter to a young man from another province, but he was born in the countryside of Damascus and acquired the customs of the same community, resembling her own family in terms of social environment.

Rula added that she does not mind marrying off her daughter to a man from another province, but the marriage must be based on a resemblance in habits, or the suitor must be willing to change in some way. She sees no difference in choosing a partner between a young man and a young woman and believes that people should choose for their children on a principle of equality to preserve lineage.

Meanwhile, some young men and women seek to step outside the cloak of certain customs and traditions, looking for a life partner outside the norm, among them is Hassan, a 37-year-old Syrian residing in Istanbul.

Hassan got married four years ago according to his mother’s choice, who sought a wife for him among relatives, with the condition that the girl is from the province of Raqqa, to which he belongs.

His mother found the partner in the Turkish province of Gaziantep, where he received the girl’s picture via WhatsApp. This gained the approval of the parents and then the young man, and things proceeded according to familiar customs, and he is now a married man with two children.

The young man does not consider himself happy, expressing, “My mother, who decided that my happiness is within the prevailing norm, passed away. My experience is a failure, and I am not satisfied with it, but I am forced to continue in this marriage under the desire of the norm and society.”

The young man has a second wife whom he has not announced to his family, from the province of Damascus, with whom he has strong feelings, as he describes. He finds the second marriage satisfying for him, but in his family, choosing a partner is a family decision.

What are the motives?

Marriage within the same area is popular and recognized among Syrians from different provinces and environments, and many still cling to this norm despite the separation and leaving the country and the difficult conditions they live through.

Social psychologist Safwan Qassam explained to Enab Baladi that Syrian societies are still in the process of breaking with traditions and norms because they fear for marital and family stability. Thus, parents strive to shorten their children’s suffering by resorting to the traditional form of marital compatibility.

Qassam believes that marital compatibility does not require marriage within the same environment, but the role of this environment is significant in building the marital relationship in terms of one culture and customs. Seeking a partner from the same province through social networking sites is no different from the traditional search through social relations, but here parents have employed modern tools to play the same role.

From Qassam’s perspective, there are two types of marriage: the modern one, which is more connected and integrated in the marital relationship, but less stable according to statistics due to the lack of social constraints within it.

There is also the traditional marriage, which is more enduring because it has family controls that help in sustaining this marriage, despite its negatives in the completeness of the marital relationship from various aspects.

Successful and failed marriages

Marriage within the same province is not new in Syrian society, and some youths seek their families’ help to find a partner for marriage.

Haitham, 34, from Aleppo and residing in Istanbul got married after asking his mother’s help to look for a bride from Aleppo province for him. The engagement took place formally after the two families got to know each other according to the prevailing customs and traditions within the community they belong to, and he is now a father to a child.

The young man considers his marriage successful and did not find difficulty in communicating with his wife since they belong to similar customs.

Haitham explained that his parents’ marriage was similar, which drove him to marry according to the norm.

On the other hand, Marah, 26, from Hama, separated from her husband from Quneitra province after a marriage that lasted four years and resulted in a daughter.

The divorce came due to ongoing problems with the husband’s family, who referred to her as the “stranger,” Marah told Enab Baladi.

The young woman explained that she married after a love relationship, and her relationship with her husband was good, but his family did not want the marriage because she was from another province.

The family continued to reject Marah after the marriage and decided to marry their son off to a young woman from the same province, which shared similar customs and traditions, leading to the separation.

“These norms wronged me and my daughter. Society has not changed, and despite living in more civilized countries, some still hold the same mentality,” with these words, Marah described her experience.

In early 2023, Enab Baladi prepared a report titled “Syrian young men in Turkey do not get married,” showcasing the struggles Syrian youths in Turkey face in finding a wife for themselves.

The number of Syrians in Turkey registered under “temporary protection” is about 3.2 million refugees, according to the latest statistics released by the Turkish Presidency of Migration Management on January 11 of the current year.


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