by Zafar Bangash (Opinion, Crescent International Vol. 42, No. 2, Jumada' al-Ula', 1434)
The suffering of the Syrian people is bad enough; they are now faced with a new, more sordid dilemma. Young Syrian girls from Jordan’s refugee camp are being purchased by rich Saudis and Qataris, some in their sixties and seventies.
The people of Syria face multiple tragedies as the war enters its third year. The killings — on both sides — are bad enough; the most vulnerable among them, especially women and young girls, are being exploited in ways that would shame any Muslim. There have been consistent reports of Saudi and Qatari men, many in their 60s and 70s, preying on young Syrian girls in the refugee camps in Jordan. Conditions in the Zaatari refugee camp are appalling but the Jordanian authorities refuse to provide help and prevent international charities from doing so either. The UN refugee agency has repeatedly called for more help but neither the Jordanian government, which claims it has no money, nor the rulers of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are financing the mercenaries in Syria, are willing to help. The refugees’ plight is exploited for propaganda purposes to whip up hysteria against the government of Bashar al-Asad. Helping the refugees would undermine this campaign.
The overwhelming majority of Syrian refugees in Jordan comprise mothers, daughters and young children. Their husbands and sons are either dead or engaged in war. Syrian women are unable to earn a living to feed their children because the Jordanian regime refuses to allow them to work, making them extremely vulnerable to exploitation. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey are providing money and weapons to the rebels while Jordanian territory is used to train them. British and French mercenaries are actively engaged in training al-Qaeda mercenaries to continue their crimes in Syria. The US is also part of this diabolical enterprise.
These do-gooders, while talking up the plight of Syrian refugees and using it to whip up hatred against the Asad government, refuse to help the refugees. There are an estimated 440,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, by far the largest contingent, followed closely by Lebanon with 430,000 refugees. Of all places, the plight of Syrian refugees in Jordan is the most desperate. This is deliberate, otherwise it makes no sense to prevent foreign charities from working in the camp to provide much needed food, water and medical help. This forces Syrian mothers to resort to desperate means: sell their daughters to the Saudis, Qataris and Jordanians. Even some Western media outlets that have led the propaganda campaign against al-Asad’s regime have been forced to acknowledge the plight of Syrian refugees (Toronto Star, Canada’s largest circulation daily, published a front-page story titled “They want beautiful girls, the younger the better” — March 22, 2013).
A thriving prostitution business has erupted in the Zaatari refugee camp. Jordanian and Syrian women, professional at such work, have set up a vast network that connects Saudi and Qatari men, some as old as 70, with Syrian mothers who have young daughters. For a small fee, sometimes as low as $2, the men are allowed to leer at young girls to see whether they like them before taking them away. Of all the men, the Saudis are the worst. This disgraceful behavior is actively and openly promoted even as hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions are spent on waging war against Syria. The same regimes refuse to assist the refugees despite their plight being well known. The Jordanian authorities not only turn a blind eye to this horrible practice but seem to be involved in it as well. Everyone gets a cut in this vast chain while Syrian mothers get a paltry sum despite their daughters being sold into what is essentially prostitution.
Lecherous Saudi men have swarmed into Jordan. They come loaded with cash in search of flesh, the younger the better. Girls as young as 12 years old have been “bought” by rich Saudis in their 70s. It is revealing that not one Saudi preacher, quick to issue fatwas of bid‘ah and takfir against any behavior they do not agree with, have remained mum. This should not come as a surprise since the same preachers have endorsed the monarchy as legitimate, called for no uprising against it and have given the most archaic interpretations of Islam that make a mockery of the pristine principles contained in this divine din. Perhaps, the Saudi preachers agree with the disgraceful conduct of their fellow citizens preying on flesh in the fetid refugee camps.
In the past, the Saudis had gained notoriety for fetching 12-year-old brides from India, and also for “employing” Iraqi women refugees who came streaming out of Iraq after the 2003 US invasion. Poor Muslim families sold their daughters in hopes of a better future. These girls were often abused and then discarded. Now, the Saudis have found something closer to home. Syrian girls are pretty and speak with a fine Arabic accent — the best in the Muslim East — and the crude Saudis and Qataris with their coarse features and protruding bellies are salivating at the prospect of finding young Syrian beauties — “the younger the better.”
Muslims filled with hatred for the Asad regime should ask themselves: why are their sisters in Syria being forced into prostitution by the very regimes that claim to be supporting the Syrian rebels? Why are the Saudi, Qatari and other Arabian regimes not providing financial help to support the refugees if they are so concerned about the plight of Syrians? Contrast the terrible condition of Syrian refugees in Jordan with that in Lebanon where Hizbullah has provided generous help to all refugees. Hizbullah does not ask about their political affiliations, unlike the Turks and Qataris. In Lebanon, they are not only provided decent shelter but also food and medical care. The hate-filled rebels in Syria consider Hizbullah an “enemy” yet this enemy’s behavior is far nobler toward Syrian refugees than their Saudi and Qatari “friends.”
It is not too late for the Syrian rebels to realize that they are being used in a vicious dirty game that only benefits the enemies of Islam. Meanwhile, Syrian girls and women pay the price in life and honor. Is this worth it?