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The war on love and marriage in war-torn Yemen

There is a noticeable increase in number of single men and women in Yemen [Getty]

Date of publication: 13 April, 2017

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Hopes of finding love have quickly shattered in Yemen, as more young adults than ever before are now unable to afford to get married.
Mohammed al-Jaadi proposed to his bride before the war in Yemen began. He worked overtime in his family owned shop to save up for his wedding, hoping he would be married in a matter of months.

His dreams, however, slipped through his fingers when the Saudi-led coalition began its war in March 2015.

Yemen was already the poorest Arab country even before the war, with over half of the population living below the poverty line. Although the country was already experiencing relative instability after the Houthis orchestrated a coup against the Hadi government in September 2014, the start of the Saudi operation came as a shock that completely wrecked civilian infrastructure.

“I remember thinking it would only be a matter of time before I could get married. I worked hard and saved. Then the war began and my plans changed completely,” Mohammed told The New Arab.

“I saved $5,000 which was enough for a modest wedding. But that money ended up flying out of my pockets as prices of basic necessities increased," he said, and so, affording a wedding "quickly became out of question."

I saved $5,000 which was enough for a modest wedding. But that money ended up flying out of my pockets as prices of basic necessities increased

Hopes of finding love swiftly shattered in Yemen, as more and more young adults struggle to afford not only a wedding, but marriage itself.

Pre-marital relationships are generally looked down upon in Yemen, where conservative values are dominant, so many couples either stay engaged awaiting the end of the war, or are unable to pull through preparing for their new life and break up soon after.


Read also: Timeline: After two years
of war, Yemen in crisis

‘More singles than ever before’

Yemeni sociologist Hind Nasser told The New Arab that there is a noticeable increase in the number of single young men and women as a result of the war.

"According to government statistics which date as far back as 2009, there were half a million Yemeni women unmarried under the age of 30. But I now expect that the number will double after we enter our third year of the war," Hind said.

Broken homes and shredded souls

In some cases, despite the poverty, couples who come from more traditionalist families are more likely to marry.

Traditionally, when a woman marries, she would move into the family home of her husband and the young couple would be deemed free from paying housing expenses.

In more urban parts of Yemen, such as cities in Aden, Taiz and Hadhramaut, the groom having his own home is a requirement for most families, making marriage less affordable.

Every young woman has a right to live her life, and if she is widowed, she would not able to marry again

The stigma behind widows and those disabled as a result of war also stops many from getting married. Female widows are usually less likely to find love after death because of male preferences of marrying someone who has never been married before.

Both men and women who have been injured and disabled because of war are also less likely to find love, with society equating disability with weakness.

“Anyone who has been disabled, whether it is because of war or not is treated less of a human,” Tahya Nasser told The New Arab.

She got engaged to her cousin three years ago, only to later break it off after he decided to become a fighter. Tahya did not wish to have the label of 'widow' if her husband died during battle.

“Every young woman has a right to live her life, and if she is widowed, she would not able to marry again. Her family could pressure her to re-marry someone below her league, or settle for someone unable to find a wife because he’s disabled or cannot provide for a family,” Tahya explained.

Being unable to get married is just one of the many plights Yemenis face today.

The war has so far killed more than 10,000 people and wounded 42,500 others since the Saudi-led Arab coalition intervened in support of the government in March 2015.

The fighting has displaced more than three million people, and more than two thirds of Yemen's population of around 18.8 million people need aid.

Furthermore, some 7.3 million people are estimated to be close to starvation and 462,000 children suffer from serious malnutrition. Without $2.1 billion in international aid, the UN warns that Yemen will suffer a famine in 2017.

As some say, war does not kill love, but for many in Yemen, love will have to be put on hold for now.

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