Arranged or not arranged: transnational marriages among Syrian refugees in Germany

Yafa Shanneik, Schirin Vahle

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


In Germany, since the outbreak of the Syrian war in 2011, family relations of Muslim Syrian refugees have become the focus of public attention (Jaraba 2019; Johansen 1991). The representation of Syrian refugee families exhibits an essentialised portrayal of Muslim women governed and controlled by religion and oppressive patriarchal social constrains. Syrian refugee women, whether already in or pursuing an arranged marriage, are regarded to be in suppressive marital and social relations and in need for governmental and/or non-governmental interventions to ‘liberate’ them (Rohe 2014). These interventions informed by this representation have two consequences for women. First, with the focus on the refugee as the ‘other’ inadequate attention is paid to the political, socio-religious and economic circumstances leading women to pursue an arranged marriage. Second, the portrayal of a monolithic model of gender relations as existent within Muslim Syrian refugee families prevents the understanding of complex dynamics and of plural and diverse family relationships.

Syrian refugees, as others, are bound to stay in a designated refugee reception centre (Aufnahmeeinrichtungen) until their asylum application has been decided upon. They very often also have to remain in a specific state (Bundesland) after asylum has been granted for up to three years. This long-term restricted mobility contributes to a lack of social cohesion with members of the host society. The social interaction is therefore minimal between asylum seekers living in these centres and German host society. This enforced segregation has caused feelings of marginalisation, insecurity and restlessness among women in particular. We argue in this chapter that Germany’s policy on refugees’ mobility forces women to opt for an arranged marriage as they have to rely on transnational networks of kinship relations in Syria to locate spouses in other parts of Germany.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe politics of arranged marriage
Subtitle of host publicationcontextualising power, law and culture
PublisherRutgers University Press
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Dec 2021

Publication series

NameThe Politics of Marriage and Gender: Global Issues in Local Contexts
PublisherRutgers University Press

Bibliographical note

Not yet published as of 12/05/2022.


  • Muslim marriages
  • Arranged Marriages
  • Assylum policies
  • Germany
  • Syria


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