Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Fear of reprisals from members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has led to an increasing number of marriages between its fighters and local girls in the cities of Aleppo and Raqqa, say activists.
Monzir Al-Sallal, an opposition activist in Aleppo, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “This phenomenon is on the increase in the Aleppo area where members of ISIS are present.”
“When fighters of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) arrested a leader of ISIS recently, they found a number of marriage certificates in his car,” he added.
The marriages of foreign jihadists to Syrian women do not usually last more than two months because of the regular movement of fighters from one front to another.
Despite some foreign fighters who come to Syria to fight alongside ISIS bringing their families with them, the younger ones prefer to marry Syrian women, especially in the areas which are under the control of the group.
These marriages raise social tensions, especially in conservative, tribal areas where families are usually keen to know the backgrounds of men who want to marry their daughters.
Around two weeks ago, a 22-year-old university student called Fatima Al-Abdallah Al-Abou reportedly committed suicide by poisoning herself when her father tried to force her to marry a Tunisian jihadist affiliated to ISIS.
Opposition activists said: “Fatima was studying English at the Faculty of Humanities and belonged to Al-Ajail tribe. She lived in Al-Sahlabiyah village, east of Raqqa.”
This incident raised great anger among the residents of Raqqa who continue to adhere to tribal customs and traditions.
Some activists in Raqqa said another girl who married one of the leaders of ISIS was hospitalized after he subjected her to sexual assault.
Since ISIS took control of Raqqa, and with the failure of the rival the Al-Nusra Front and Ahrar Al-Sham to evict them from the city, the group has reportedly sought to increase its control over the city by integrating itself into its social fabric, including by marrying into its tribes, whether by traditional means or by coercion.
Raqqa activists said: “some ISIS members married girls in Raqqa who did not want to marry strangers whom they knew nothing about.” A number of opposition news websites reported that ISIS expelled displaced families who lived in camps to rehouse newlyweds.
Since taking control of Raqqa, ISIS have imposed strict rules on the inhabitants, including a specific dress code for women which includes the niqab and gloves. Activists told journalists last week the group recently flogged two women for breaching its rules.