Dear Diary

July 30, 2014

Pressure, prejudice, and proposals.


He is a handsome man in his 50s, with a white face, green eyes, and a gray stripe through his hair. He is well educated. He has never been married. He is an old friend of my late father. He even resembles him, inside and out. He lives far away, in Sweden. We call him Uncle Amjad.

He offered to send money to help my family. I said if he tried, I’d just send it back. He praised my mother for the way she’s raising us. He said my father was lucky to have had her as a wife.

Then he asked me to marry him. He told me I’d be his spoiled princess. He said he’d make all my dreams come true.

I’m seriously considering it. Why not? He could be my savior, the man who could put me on a magic carpet and carry me from a land of despair to a world where wishes and ambitions stand a chance of being fulfilled. I would move to Sweden, where I could study and have a good life, and Uncle Amjad would take care of me and treat me like a princess. It sounds so much better than staying in Syria, a country that is falling apart.

I told my mother about it. She was furious. She yelled at me for a long time. And then she calmed down and started explaining to me how dangerous it would be for me to accept his offer.

“He is 30 years older than you,” she said. “You won’t be able to understand him. He won’t understand you, either. This is not right for you—try to find your own way. You’re still young. Please, don’t waste yourself like that. You’ll regret it. Marriage is not about relying on someone else completely; it is about sharing. Such a relationship will never be balanced. He would just be like a financier for your ambitions, instead of being a life partner.”

I always trust my mother, no matter what. So for now, my notions of Uncle Amjad have been dashed. But would it really be so bad to marry him? How much worse could that life, as Uncle Amjad’s wife, be than what I’m going through now? It seems like it would be much a more peaceful existence, with no problems and no pain. Is that too much to ask? Is it wrong of me to want it? I need your advice, please. ♦

Marah’s diary is produced in collaboration with Syria Deeply, a digital news outlet covering the Syrian crisis. It was translated from the Arabic by Mais Istanbelli.


1 2 3 4 5


  • soviet_kitsch July 30th, 2014 7:45 PM

    is there any way that uncle amjad can help marah and her family move to sweden without her marrying him, like on a private/refugee visa?

  • kitsune13 July 30th, 2014 7:54 PM

    Marah –

    I agree completely with your mother. I can understand why the offer is attractive, and why you might consider it now when you never would have previously, but your mother is right: a marriage to an older man whom you once saw as an uncle would not be a balanced relationship, and you and your heart and your mind deserve a partner who will support you and be supported by you in return.

    Good luck, and I wish you happiness no matter what.

  • K8 is Gr8 July 30th, 2014 11:19 PM

    Please, Marah, wait to find some one whom you truly love and want to marry! I see why this man’s offer is attractive but it would not be a healthy relationship.

    Many, many studies have shown that women who marry later have a healthier life. (I don’t know how your tests went, but if you are able to continue your education, I hope you do!)

    I truly believe that you will find some one later on in life who will offer you security, yet still be someone that you love.

    Sending love and good wishes your way

    p.s. To any one interested in women’s roles, women’s rights, and other things like that, I highly recommend the book “Half the Sky” by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

  • Kiana Kimberly Flores July 31st, 2014 4:53 AM

    Britney, I feel you. We are on the same page right now. Growth can be overwhelming and scary at the same time. And things gradually feel OK as you grow. Sending a hug your way~

  • Kiana Kimberly Flores July 31st, 2014 5:05 AM

    You have a beautiful life ahead of you, Marah. Right now, you may think of that proposal as a means to run away/escape from “a country that is falling apart” but sooner you will be able to see it in a different light. Being in a country that is in crisis will not lessen your worth as a woman; it won’t define your future because only YOU have the power to design yr future.
    My advice would be to reject the offer because, see, you are a bright and intelligent girl with a future AHEAD. Look, things in the future can be quite scary because they are NOT YET determined, but with a lovely and talented girl that you are, the world has so much to offer!
    Consider things critically before making decisions. It’s good that you told your mom about it because, as hackneyed as this might sound, she knows best. Really. Her advice to you is just enough. :)
    Also, aside from listening to your mom, LISTEN TO YOURSELF and consider/weigh things.
    I hope all goes well for you, Marah. I am sending my prayers to you, your family, and to your country. <3

  • mangointhesky July 31st, 2014 7:16 AM

    These are so amazing! And Ananda- I entirely agree that it’s unfair that we live somewhere where being ourselves isn’t good enough…

  • gvantsa-goes-by-wendy July 31st, 2014 12:01 PM

    I’d like to write a long, well-formulated and developed answer to Marah, but I’m afraid it might grow into an essay that you/she would be too lazy to read or that wouldn’t even fit into the comment.
    So instead, I’ll simply write this to Marah:

    I hope with all my heart that things will go better for you and in your country in general and you’ll have the possibility to fulfill your intellectual and any other ambitions. I’m going through a tough period right now, even if practically it’s a situation very different from yours and it seems and probably is a lot easier, I have big moral/mental struggles and I can understand your consideration of a totally absurd/unlike yourself decision. I’m living in a little, developing country that has known many hard periods too and at that point I can relate to you too. I don’t really know where I’m going with this, but I just want you to know that your diary touched me since the beginning and made me re-consider many things, so I hope that in return, our support (even if it’s virtual) will make you reconsider this decision of marriage and the whole situation in general. I hope it all doesn’t sound too superficial or silly. I just hope with all my heart that everything goes better for you and wish you all the best, first of all, peace with yourself. Love, Gvantsa

  • hubbabubba July 31st, 2014 3:07 PM

    Dear Marah,
    I think you are right to trust your mum.
    My mum told me that when she was alone for a weekend a few years ago (for the first time in 20 years) she walked round the park and watched the sunset. She said it was absolutely beautiful, but beauty means so much less to her when her husband’s not there to share it with her.
    When your life in Syria improves you will be thankful that you didn’t take this offer as you will be able to choose someone who is perfect not convenient for you! Good luck, love is worth waiting for x

  • elliecp July 31st, 2014 4:12 PM

    caitlin your visual diary is perfect as always <3

  • Blantamara July 31st, 2014 10:56 PM

    ohh mann, Marah’s diary always gets me, like, hell it creates a mixed feeling in me…

    Hallo Horo

  • mangachic August 3rd, 2014 4:48 PM

    Marah, it sounds so tempting. But if he is in any way not as perfect as he seems now-and people change when you give them power-you’ll be a minor in a foreign country with no one to turn to since all your family will be thousands of miles away.

  • aikaendi August 4th, 2014 7:48 AM


    I understand why you would want to marry him to flee from the situation you’re in right now, but I think your mother is right. I’m from Sweden myself, and I would be incredibly glad if you and your family would find safety here, but there’s also many, MANY risks with what you’re considering.

    If you would marry him you would be able to move here, but it would all depend on the marriage. If he were to divorce you, you probably wouldn’t be allowed to stay. This would put him in a position of power over you. A situation of power which would only be reinforced by the fact that you would be all alone in a country which is unfamiliar to you. I don’t know this man, but I consider the fact that he would propose marriage to an 18 year old when he himself is in his 50s incredible alarming. There have been cases where old Swedish men have travelled to other countries where they have lied about how wealthy they are in order to use young women, and I’m worried that you might become one of them.

    Stay safe! x

  • artsygiraffe August 11th, 2014 8:56 AM

    Marhaba Marah,
    I know that this is a very difficult and confusing time for you. I understand what it feels like to have conflicting emotions during rough times (I’m Lebanese; living in Lebanon most of the time). I’m pretty sure I haven’t been through anything as bad as what you have to deal with at the moment (war-wise), but I’ve been through enough to relate deeply. My advice is to just pause and look beyond the seemingly glamorous alternatives to living a life filled with war and stress. There have been many times where I was 100% certain that I wanted to change my whole life just to be away from the pain that comes with instability. Often that change was against my mother’s wishes. I now see that these changes were selfish. I’m not saying that you wanting to marry Amjad is totally selfish, but it’s still important that you really listen to your mother. Bottom line, if you do choose to go to Sweden, I support you all the way, and won’t judge, just because I know that I probably would have given in to my insecurities if I was facing a similar problem. I sympathise with you, and it breaks my heart to see what is happening. It’s happening all around me and you. Every day. I see the floods of Syrian people in despair, rushing to refuge, and it makes me wonder if any choice is wrong in times like these. It’s easy to forget everything else when you have to live that horror. All I’m asking is…think of your mother, think of YOURSELF, and analyse where you think your heart belongs, war or no war involved. Stay strong habibti.
    All my love and support from Lebanon <3
    - Aya

  • Paprika September 4th, 2014 9:23 PM

    Marah please don’t go with this man!
    He is a 50 year old man trying to marry an 18 year old girl and bring her to a country where she has no rights as a citizen! You would be completely dependent on him regardless of his intentions for you. There are so many women who end up in situations like this, keep your freedom!