Damascus, Syria | AFP | Syrian student Nour wistfully examines her bare ring finger, then scans fellow classmates around her at Damascus University. Amid the sea of women, there’s no eligible single man in sight.
At 30, Nour says she is eager to get married — but Syria’s protracted conflict means potential suitors have emigrated, joined the army or lost their lives.
“I hope a wedding ring will decorate this finger someday,” says Nour, who asked to use a pseudonym to speak freely.
“But there are no more young men here. They all left years ago. I’m noticing a drop year after year.”
Syria’s conflict erupted in 2011 with mass protests, just as Nour was preparing to graduate with her first degree in economics.
She recalls fielding weekly marriage proposals at the time.
“But today these proposals have almost completely stopped. They’re limited to ones I see as incompatible for a normal marriage — either from men who are already married or old!”
To pass the time, Nour has opted to pursue her second degree at Damascus University in literature.
“I’ve got nothing to fill my time with. No friend, no lover, no husband,” she sighs, pulling her dyed blonde hair away from her face.
“I’m terrified I’ll find a grey hair before I get married. I’ll definitely lose all hope at that point.”
In Syria’s broadly conservative society, women were generally expected to marry in their 20s, but the lack of eligible bachelors has somewhat relaxed those norms.
– Missing ‘the marriage train’ –
“Now, because of the crisis, a woman could marry at 32 without people saying she’s late to wed,” said Salam Qassem, a psychology professor in Damascus.
More than 340,000 people have died in Syria’s war, and thousands of men have been deployed on front lines far from home.
Of the country’s pre-war population of 23 million, more than five million have fled the country and even more are internally displaced.
That has unravelled the social networks parents once used to find potential spouses for their sons and daughters, said Qassem.
“Neighbours used to all know each other in the past, or could get to know each other easily. But today, families are scattered all over the place,” she said.