The war in Syria has forced people to change their lifestyles and live in a manner that they are unaccustomed to, and this includes love and courtship rituals. As a result, there is the growing phenomenon of “online marriage” across Syrian society.
This occurs when two people are living in different areas and they can’t meet in person until the day they arrange the marriage contract. After that, they make arrangements for one of the partners to travel to the other. In some cases, the two people are in areas under siege, and neither of them can travel or meet because of security risks.
Majed, 30, works as a journalist in Dubai. He asked his mother in Homs to find him a girl in their town and propose to her on his behalf. His mother found 24-year-old finance student Laila, and Majed got to know her on Skype. After three months of talking online he thought he wanted to spend the rest of his life with Laila. When they agreed to the marriage contract, they arranged to meet in Lebanon with their families. But Majed and Laila weren’t compatible in person, and then a real breakup followed the virtual union.
Omar, 30, studied translation at Damascus University and graduated in 2010. He joined the revolution and worked in medicine and media, and virtually met Faten, 25, who is studying philosophy at Batra University in Jordan. Faten is also an activist who works to arrange the transfer of aid to Syria.
Omar was forced to stay in Barzeh, north of Damascus, since the beginning of 2013, as he is wanted by the regime. Syria Deeply spoke with Omar about the unusual start to his relationship with Faten.
Syria Deeply: How did your relationship with Faten develop?
Omar: Our relationship started and grew with daily talks on Skype and Facebook, and we spent a lot of time working on aid distribution together. We became attracted to each other a year after we first knew each other. We tried to figure out how we could meet and marry. Faten could also be wanted due to her activities outside Syria, and thus she couldn’t come into the country.
Syria Deeply: What was your next step?
Omar: We agreed to get engaged, and I asked my family to propose to her on Skype. Since I was under siege, my family is in another area, and Faten and her family are outside Syria, we had to hold a group Skype chat to carry out the ceremony and the marriage contract. It was all done with everyone’s blessings, then we all celebrated separately, with our friends.
Syria Deeply: Were the mutual feelings enough to make such a step?
Omar: We had a lot of hope and love for each other. We worried we might never see each other if I got injured, arrested or killed, but it was the hope and optimism that kept us going. In February 2014 people in our area signed a cease-fire after almost a year of being under siege, and this is when I started planning to leave the area to meet my beloved.
Syria Deeply: How did you make it out of the area?
Omar: I wasn’t able to leave until five months after the agreement. In August I made arrangements with some men in the security forces to smuggle some wanted people and medical materials through the regime checkpoints, and he got me out of the area by bringing me the false ID of someone who looked like me. I passed through many checkpoints until I got to Qalamoun, and from there I went to western Ghouta, then to Daraa, and then managed to enter Jordan illegally.
Syria Deeply: So you reached Faten?
Omar: Yes, she was waiting for me in a place near the border. The happiness of our first meeting was indescribable, especially after a year’s engagement, which was from September 2013 to September 2014.
When I arrived [in Jordan] we had to officially register our marriage. I had to pay a lot of money to get some papers done since I’m wanted. We’re still working on it, and soon we’ll be officially married.
Syria Deeply: If it weren’t for these exceptional circumstances, how would you have married?
Omar: I wasn’t obliged to marry this way, for I could have chosen a girl from my neighborhood or at least within Syria, but the love and connection Faten and I have is what made me take this step, because I’ve always wanted to marry a girl that I love. It was and still is a very special and beautiful experience. It eliminated all the unimportant social formalities. And our feelings are much stronger when we touch hands or hug each other, and whatever feelings we developed virtually don’t compare to actually meeting and talking face-to-face. I couldn’t be happier to have chosen Faten and that she chose me.