Suddenly, the Syrian girl Reem (36 years ) found herself alone in Egyptian Aswan governorate ‘streets , without any shelter or breadwinner ,after her Egyptian husband Mohammad gave up of her and denying/disavowal of her rights as a result of their “the Arfi /customary/informal “ marriage, which is undocumented at the Egyptian courts .
Reem couldn’t able for documenting her marriage contract from Mohamad because she couldn’t register her divorce from her Syrian ex-husband at the Syrian official departments.
While “The foreigners’ marriage office “ in Egypt is requiring from the foreign woman who desires to marry an Egyptian must have a civil status record clarifying her marital status, and due to Reem still married in her Syrian documents, So she couldn’t register her marriage from the Egyptian Mohamad .
Reem entered to Egypt in April 2012, after she has separated with her Syrian husband, and in the same month of the year 2014, she got married Mohamad and she lived with him at Nasir city and after that in Al Sharkia governorate, for one year and eight months.
Reem is saying that she returned back Syria to see her children , then she returned back again Egypt to find her husband disavowal of her , by a phone call telling her that he got married from Egyptian girl and he started with her a new life, and he don’t want any problems.
Reem couldn’t able for documenting her marriage contract from Mohamad because she couldn’t register her divorce from her Syrian ex-husband at the Syrian official departments.
This investigation has documented during six months stories of six Syrian refugees women, between of them Reem, who they got married from Egyptians by undocumented Arfi /customary contracts, then they were divorced after passing months of the marriage by their husbands, and the disclaimer/disavowal of all the rights, including the alimony, accommodation and joy (amount of money) and confirming/registering the marriage and children’s descent.
he Arfi/customary marriage doesn’t require only a paper signed by both parties at one of the lawyers’ office then they become spouses.
The investigation has monitored the exploitation of the Egyptians men for economical circumstances of Syrians refugees women in Egypt, and due to not having their documents to get married from them by “external ” contract, and thus this marriage will be finished from the husband’s side, and what is exacerbates the problem, the high cost which imposed by the Syrian embassy for extracting documents or amending data and the impossibility of extracting some of it.
That is happened during failure of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in its role in providing the assistance to the Syrians women. In addition inability of the Syrian & Egyptian civil society organizations which is taking care of the woman to provide actual assistance for those women, and the social outlook that accompanies women after divorce.
The woman rights after divorce in the Egyptian law:
1-The alimony: including food, clothes, accommodation and treatment expenses according to article No.1 of personal status law.
2-List of movables things: devices, furniture, value of gold, component of marriage accommodation and the advanced & deferred dowry, according to marriage contract as per articles No.10-20-15 of law No.1 of year 2000.
3-The joy (money ): it is estimated by an expenses and it can be imposed for long period at least two years ,according to article No.18 of law No.25 of year 1929 which added by law No.100 of year 1985.
At 8th of July 2013 , the Cairo airport authorities is returned-back plane affiliated to Syrian airlines to Syria – Lattakia governorate, by virtue of start applying the new entrance measures on Syrians , and that was the date of imposing visa and prior security approval for entering the Syrians to Egypt.
After this date for more than two years, Reem felt in longing for her children in Syria, so she traveled to see them, then she returned back in November 2016 but entering Egypt in this time was not easy, Reem surprised by imposing visa “elusive ” and that pushed her to travel to Sudan, then to Egypt by smuggling way, across the southern border.
Reem is clarifying that after her coming to Egypt she called to her husband, who in his turn has disavowed of her and has married an Egyptian woman without giving her any of her rights.
And that forced her later to resident at “Madkour” garden in Aswan governorate southern of Egypt, and she lost over there her documents including her marriage contract, until “the Syrian commission for refugees’ affairs in Egypt” has ensured her sponsorship and taking care up to date.
“We took Reem to psychiatrist in order to rehabilitate her from the shock which she is exposed to” as saying head of the commission Taysir Alnajar “.
The Reem’s story is similar with the Syrian young girl Kinda (33 years –alias) because she had to get married an Egyptian by Arfi/customary contract, because she doesn’t have the official documents to register her marriage officially, due to her entering to Egypt for the first time illegally across the Sudanese border, but the tragedy’s face in kinda’s story that she has given birth from this marriage relationship.
And she is saying that her husband left her with her infant, and he denied all of his responsibility under the pressure of his first wife, and the young girl with her infant remained without any shelter or sustenance.
Kinda arrived to Egypt in March 2014 , and had lived in one of her relatives house , then she got married in July 2017 from Ayman (alias ), who is working as a teacher in Azhari Institute, and she has divorced in June 2018, after giving birth a baby from her Egyptian husband.
who he is starting to extract new documents for her and her son before the interfering of his first wife and start to threat the lawyer to stop extracting the documents to prevent making kinda’s status legally on the Egyptian lands.
Kinda is saying that “Her husband’s wife has engaged her for him , by her will , in order to have a child , because she couldn’t have children for him but herself turned over her ” clarifying that these pressures finished after the husband divorced kinda.
And she is referring that she accepted the Arfi marriage because she wants to establish a new life and to have a house, good life, and to get rid of material pressures and the burden of staying at her relatives.
The lawyer Yousef Al -Mutani , a member of the Egyptian association for international law , is referring that ” The most prominent reasons which prevent Syrians to register their marriages in Egypt are entering some of them from Sudan by the smuggling way , due to that they cannot obtain an official entrance visa , and that make them violators on the Egyptian lands“.
The organizations inability/failure
Kinda knocked door of the organizations which are concerning in woman, some of them like “The general commission for Syrians refugees in Egypt, Syrians association, Syrian relief committee and Syriana “, but the answer was “we can’t do anything”.
Latifa Daghman head of Suriat Almaadi and Hilwan association, which is an association concerns in woman affairs & refugees integration, is saying that “we cannot do anything toward these cases, because their marriages not documented, so the official departments don’t recognize it absolutely “.
And she added “we are trying in friendly way to communicate with the husband for recovering his wife’s rights, by reactivate the religious deterrent inside him, because we have no other choice”.
Steps and costs of marriage registration for Syrian woman in Egypt:
1- Extracting of civil status record & marriage approval from the Syrian embassy cost of $ 40.
2- Power of attorney of lawyer to file lawsuit at the Egyptian family court to confirm/register the marriage in cost of between $200-500 according to the lawyer fee.
3- After obtaining a verdict in the marriage relationship, the marriage will be documented or extracting birth certificate for the child at “the civil registry “.
“we don’t interfere in like these matters , we only are providing the material, medical and psychological assistances , and in case we received any complain , we are trying to solve it by a friendly ways , in case of failure it , there is no other way ” as saying Taisyer Alnajar , Head of the Syrian commission for refugee affairs in Egypt .
Like kinda’s case, the lawyer Issam Hamed asserts, who is caring about the Syrians affairs in Egypt, that proving of her infant’s descent requires power of attorney of lawyer and file a lawsuit to confirm/register the marriage, then after it, proving of the child’s descent/ ancestry case, and she has been failed in that due to her illegal status at the Egyptian lands.
Half million Syrian refugees
According to the Egyptian president Abdel Fattah Sisi in his dialogue with French journal Le Figaro in October of 2017, the number of Syrians in Egypt reached to 500 thousands, between them 127 thousands registered at “The United Nation High Commission for Refugees’ Affairs” in Egypt according to its electronic website.
This Syrians presence in Egypt has made 10 thousands marriage status, between Egyptian man and Syrian woman in 2012, according the national statistic center for woman, and the number decreased during year of 2017.
Where the foreign marriage office which affiliated to Egyptian Ministry of Justice in registering of 472 marriage status documented at the governmental departments between Egyptian man & Syrian woman.
And at the absence the statistics about the Arfi marriage, the person who prepared this investigation tried to statistic the lawsuits number of “external” marriage which have prepared by three Egyptians lawyers at Cairo governorate.
They were chosen for their specialty in these cases, where the Egyptian lawyer Rabeh Aldaswki has worked on /200/ marriage registration suits among Syrians women and Egyptians men between years of 2016-2018 half of it have been succeeded at least until now.
while the lawyer Yousef Al – Mutani has worked on /110/ marriage registration suits during years of 2017-2018 , and while the lawyer Issam Hamed has worked on /900/ marriage registration suits among Syrians women and Egyptians men between years of 2013-2018.
The Syrian lawyer Firas Alhaj manger of the “Syrian Legal Gathering” is saying “that he is receiving daily calls for inquiring about marriage procedures and clarifying that /10 % /of these cases the husband is Egyptian, and between /60-70 %/of these cases the marriage is undocumented (not registered officially) “.
And the lawyer Issam Hamed is saying that ” 70% of the undocumented marriage cases the woman lost her rights due to the husband’s disavowal“, pointing out that he has met more than /100/ Syrian refugees woman her husband left her alone and disappeared, varied between who was divorced without obtaining her rights, and the other women who did not get the divorce, and some of them have indeed given birth and remained without registration.
The previous marriage‘s maze
“Stay at your friend ,you are divorced “a brief short call, Nadin has received – alias – (39 years old) from her Egyptian husband Amer , to finish by it a marriage life which has kept to 14 months, and Nadin was living with him in apartment at Cairo.
Nadin left her house to visit her friend in Egyptian Obour City, and during her presence over there, her husband divorced her by a phone call, under pressure from his family who was refused the marriage because Nadin was divorced, and he is a virgin and older than him in 6 years and she has a children.
Nadin is saying:”I have come to Egypt, and I has introduced to Amer(alias) by one of my friends , who was working with her in the dairy & cheese plant ,and after two weeks from our meeting , he asked me for marriage and convinced me to accept due to we both are living alone .
I accepted immediately because I was living at one of my acquaintances house in the popular Sharabiya area in Cairo, and my daughter & I were forming a burden on them”.
Amer convinced Nadin in marriage by virtue of Arfi contract, and accepted because she didn’t register her divorce with her previous Syrian husband.
Nadin is clarifying that she don’t have any acquaintances in Syria in order to file the separation lawsuit (breaking up) with her previous husband on behalf of her , and she don’t have the sufficient money for that.
During Nadin marriage with Amer she was facing a fierce opposition from his family, and she is saying that she tried to conciliate with this family but in vain until ending of the matter, by Amer’s acquiescence to his family requests and divorcing her by phone.
After the divorce Nadin tried to looking for Amer in different ways to obtain her rights, but he has changed his residency place, job and his phone number, and she is saying: “No one knows her place like a pinch of salt which has melted (proverb)”.
Nadin one of three girls who were met by the person who prepared this investigation and they have accepted the Arfi marriage due to not registering their old divorce from their husbands, one of them her husband is living with her in Egypt and he is refusing divorce her at the court before she waived to him on her owned estate (property) in Syria.
“The verbal divorce not consider a divorce until confirmation (registering) it in the court“, as was commented on this case by the Syrian lawyer Rehada Abdoush.
And Abdoush added” the Syrian woman who is living outside Syria who desires to register her divorce has to power of attorney one of her acquaintances in Syria to file the separation lawsuit on behalf of her”, clarifying the main problem in this lawsuit, that it takes a long period, it may takes three years, especially in case of insisting the husband and refusing the divorce, and it costs about /$300/ inside Syria, and /$100/ outside it, to be the total amount of /$400/.
Steps of confirmation /registering the divorce for Syrian woman in Egypt in the absence of the husband:
1- Power of attorney of one of her relative in Syria by the Syrian embassy.
2- Certifying on the powers of attorney from the Syrian & Egyptian foreign ministry.
3- The authorized person should power of attorney a lawyer.
4- File a separation suit.
5- Obtaining a separation verdict.
6- Transferring the suit from the court to the civil status registry to change the marital status from married to divorced.
Mixing /confusing the Egyptian & Syrian laws
The confusing between Syrian & Egyptian law is one of the largest problems which is facing the Syrian women during the marriage, according to the Egyptian lawyer Yousef Al – Mutani who is interested about the Syrians cases.
And he is saying:” the Syrians are getting married in their country by the proxy (sheikh), and then they register their marriage at the Sharia court.
while in Egypt there the matter is different ,where the marriage contract is concluded at the foreigners’ marriage office which affiliated to Egyptian Ministry of Justice in case of one of the spouses is foreign, or the marriage contract is concluded at a lawyer office, then power of attorney a lawyer to file a marriage confirmation/registering suit”.
And this is unknown matter by most of the Syrian in Egypt, because this method required complicated documents are:” a new civil status record its duration not exceed on three months and clarifying the marital status and documented/approved by the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In addition to the wife’s guardian approval that he doesn’t mind the marriage and approved by the Syrian embassy, a valid residency, passport, in addition a two health certificates that there nothing prevents the marriage”.
Al – Mutani referred to that : there are many Syrians cannot extract a civil status record from the Syrian lands , because they don’t have relatives in Syria or that the war in Syria is hampering their movement to extract it and they don’t have choice but the Syrian embassy to extract it.
But the documents at the Syrian embassy is considers with a high cost in comparison with the economical status of most of the Syrians women in Egypt, the cost of slow passport extracting reached to /$300/,
And urgent passport cost of /$800/, while the cost of the general power of attorney is /$100/, and a residency deed/ $50 /, and that according to the Syrian embassy website in Cairo.
These prices were the main hamper in front of Kinda, who has got married by the Arfi contract because she wasn’t able to pay a lot of money for her country embassy, so that made her unable to file a lawsuit for confirmation her marriage and also for infant’s descent confirmation/registration.
In this context, Dugman asserts that:” the high costs of extracting documents from embassy form a motive at many Syrian refugees in Egypt for not extracting any documents from the embassy, and for not registering any changing in their social status, because they should pay for any obtained document, during difficult circumstances which they are living here”.
As also most of Syrians who opposite the Syrian regime don’t go to the Syrian consulates & embassies for extracting the documents.
But the lawyer Issam Hamed asserts that in case of the marriage was really happened by the Arfi contract and if the wife desired to confirm the marriage, thus “The United Nation High Commission for Refugee’s Affairs “ in Egypt will bear the cost.
And the Egyptian courts exclude condition of valid residency availability, and he is clarifying that after he has explained this point in an awareness seminar in front of Syrians women , he found that 400 hundred women asked to file a marriage confirmation/registration lawsuit , adding “they was ignorant that information”.
And the Syrian lawyer Rehada Abdoush asserts that the Syrian woman in Egypt in case if she married an Egyptian she can pursue him in a lawsuit for confirmation /registering her marriage.
$140: Not received dowry!
The Syrian woman Ahlam is living with her three children in Al Giza governorate in bad economical circumstances that prevent her & children from renewal her residency and her children residency, until she has received news of the death of her daughter’s husband in Syria.
And that necessitate her travel to Syria, to console her daughter and to be with her, and due to that she doesn’t not has a residency inside Egypt, thus in case she traveled to Syria she will not be able to return back.
“I was working in buffet/cafeteria at one of the institutions to save money for my family, until we started to leave some of the food kinds and meat for making the salary sufficient”. As Ahlam said.
The renewal of the residency transaction is costs about /550 /pounds, and in addition its Delay penalties up to/ 1053 /pounds, for the three first delaying months, and 550 pounds on every three months follow after it, thus the fines has accumulated on Ahlam and that made her unable to extract the residency.
70% of undocumented marriage cases, the woman rights are lost due the husband’s disavowal:
Ahlam went to an Egyptian lawyer called Mahmoud to help her, but he take advantaged her circumstance, to force her to marry him by Arfi contract, to assistance her in extracting residencies for her & her children, after he convinced her that this the marriage is the only way to extract the residency and he promised to help her in extracting the residences by his
acquaintances and bearing its costs.
Ahlam has agreed to marry him after closing all the ways in front of her, and she gave up all the expenses of marriage for him, even he lived in his house in October area at Al Giza.
“He took me to one of his known lawyers’ office by him, and wrote the marriage contract over there and he appointed the dowry in /1000/ Egyptian pound as an advanced dowry and /1000/ Egyptian pounds as an deferred dowry ($ 140), thus I agreed and signed the contract after he convinced me that he will save the money for marriage expenses and extracting the residences”. As Ahlam said.
The Ahlam’s Arfi (unregistered) marriage contract
After the marriage , he obtained a six months residency for her ,and that enabled her travel Syria and returning back to Egypt , and he refused to extract any residency for her children as he promised lately ,arguing that they are adults and can make money.
Ahlam is saying that:” disavowed what he promised me, and he has been coming one day a week and giving me the house expenses between /100-200/ Egyptian pounds (7-14 dollars) and he don’t pay the apartment’s rent”.
All that pushed Ahlma to ask divorce, and he divorced her without giving
her any of her rights including the advanced & deferred /2000/ Egyptian pounds dowry, then he started to threaten her to deport her with her children to Syria, if she did not send him the Arfi’s contract to prevent her obtaining of her rights.
We offered all the obtained marriage contracts regarding the Syrians women to the Egyptian lawyer Mohamad Atef , who specialized in the civil law , and he asserted that the contracts are correct, due to its containing of all data ,including names of the both contract parties , dowry and the witnesses.
(UNHCR) and the favoritisms
In front of these big difficulties which the Syrians women are confronting it, thus “United Nations High Commission for Refugees” is intervened after happening the Arfi’s marriage, where it is powering of attorney a lawyer to file a lawsuit at the court for confirming/registering the marriage and bearing the suit costs.
But in this process “the favoritisms are intervening in it, where the cases are powering of attorney to lawyers with little experience, who are not caring, but they are only filing the lawsuit on behalf the affected woman in front of the court and obtaining their fees from the UNHCR, without the actual interesting in the case details or follow up it at the courts, and that resulted not obtaining the woman her right”, as are
referring by the Syrian lawyer Firas Haj Yahia.
And Haj Yahia added that:”if the lawyer was unspecialized or with little experience, the woman loses the lawsuit, and she will lose her legal, material and literary right”. Pointing that he has met many Syrians women who they suffered from lack of lawyers’ experience.
The lawyer Yousef Al – Mutani is saying:”the foreigners’ marriage confirmation lawsuits have a special mechanism, a lot of the lawyers lose it, due to the lawyer should present a copy of Syrian Civil Status Law documented by the Syrian Foreign Ministry to the judge, to base his verdict upon its articles”.
The lawyer Issam Hamed asserts that more than 70% of the marriage confirmation lawsuits for Syrians women which he has worked on it, he was as the second lawyer in it, after failure of the previous lawyers.
We asked many questions to the UNHCR, about its procedures in case if it is received a complaint from a woman married by Arfi’s contract, and the provided assistance from it, and if it can provide assistance in extracting the documents, but we have not been received any respond up to moment of publishing the investigation.
Since her entering illegally to Egypt in the last of 2016 until now, Reem still does not know which road to walk in, due to the psychological & physical shock which she has exposed to it, and she has been perplexed in returning back to her country for living in it, which the war are grinding it, or staying in a strange country, her husband abandoned her in it, after she has been passed a long distances at the desert between Egypt & Sudan for reaching it.
This investigative story was completed by Syrian Investigative Reporting for Accountability Journalism–(SIRAJ). Published on DARAJ.