Almost 3,600 Syrian women married Turkish citizens in 2015: Turkish Statistical Institute

Published 04.04.2016 11:03
Updated 04.04.2016 16:22

This week saw headlines regarding the issue of Syrian refugees returning to Turkey, while the country is becoming aware of a developing trend: An increasing number of Syrian women are marrying Turkish men.

Speaking on Sunday, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu described the thousands of Syrian children born under Turkish protection as "part of our family."

This family is set to expand. Official data from the Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat) reveal that almost 3,600 Syrian women married Turkish men in 2015.

One of these women is Rabia Ali, who told Anadolu Agency (AA) that she had never thought to marry a Turkish man, but she "started to fall in love."

Ali came to Turkey after the outbreak of the Syrian war, and gave lectures in Arabic in Istanbul, before moving to Batman province with her new husband and their twin children.

Her story is one of thousands of marriages between Syrian refugees and Turkish citizens, and researchers are now beginning to consider the long-term effects these changes may have on Turkish society.

İbrahim Soysüren, a sociologist from Neuchatel University in Switzerland, told AA that these marriages could help socialization between the two cultures, but could also lead to continuing migration.

Soysüren says much depends on how Turkey and the Turkish public adapt to these changed circumstances: "We can consider this situation as [cultural] richness for now but later on, the sociological results of the issue will depend on how the government and the public handle this situation."

Soysüren thinks that living in proximity is an important reason behind the increase of marriages between Turks and Syrians, and expects to see a further increase in the number of Syrian-Turkish families and their children in the future. "Even if the war ends and everything goes back to normal in Syria, migration from Syria to Turkey will continue with the aim of starting new families," he says.

He adds that a common perception is that some Syrian women escaping war with financial problems were keen to marry Turkish men, with some of these men trying to benefit from the desperation of female Syrian refugees. Turkish media reports have suggested that Syrian people are marrying Turkish citizens out of desperation.

However if two people from different cultures have love, the marriage could have advantages, such as bi-lingual children who can break the language barrier between Turkish and Arabic, says Soysüren.

This mixed view is shared by Professor Özkan Yıldız from Dokuz Eylül University in İzmir who thinks that "multicultural marriages" could provide adaptation, "but in the long term, we could face negative consequences which affect the institution of marriage."

Yıldız says that this situation could damage Turkish family structure and could change the perspective of Turkish men regarding civil marriage. He adds that Turkey has seen the most intensive and rapid immigration wave in Republican history, meaning public institutions are unable to foresee the consequences of these social changes.

The stark choices facing Syrian women fleeing the war make marriage in Turkey a "sensible" choice, says one psychiatrist. "It is sensible that Syrian women marry Turkish men, because it provides her and her family protective ties," says Istanbul-based Medaim Yanık.

Yanık thinks people from different cultures can use their different dynamics to bring positive things to their marriages. This is a point shared by Rabia Ali, who admits to "some difficulties" in her marriage but says these were overcome in time.

"Language was the main issue between us," she says. "At first, we were communicating in English, but now we started to communicate in Arabic and Turkish."

Beyond language, some universal problems remain. Cleaning, cooking and relations with in-laws can lead to concerns between two different cultures, Ali adds.

Yanık says these marriages will be seen as a natural part of Turkish society in the future, and that reflecting on the changes brought to marriage by migration was unavoidable.

"We will have more Syrian brides and grooms," Yanık says simply.

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