Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Unhappy Women of Hiz'B'Allah

Heck hath no fury!

As their sons and 'temporary husbands' are ripped from them to fight a proxy war in Syria, grieving mothers and brides of Hiz'B'Allah are compensated with empty promises, poverty, and threats, heightening communal frustrations to the point of explosion.

After the battle of al-Qusayr in 2013, Hezbollah realized the Syrian war was going to cost the party a lot more than it had expected. It would not be able to cover most of the compensation for the families of martyrs. So it started asking single men to put off marriage and family and started to recruit more unmarried young men.

Yet as the war drags on, Hezbollah can no longer stop young men from having families, despite the costs. That is why many are being encouraged to marry war widows, or at least engage in temporary (muta'a) marriages until the time is right.

Because the new recruits are still considered outsiders, the wives of the new recruits have the lowest status, which means that they are worst-off financially, and most vulnerable to the demands of high-status men within the party. A number of women have spoken openly about Hezbollah officials who have threatened them with a reduction of services and money if they don't accept "private visits."

Temporary marriage is not only acceptable, it is promoted as a sacred act that will be rewarded in heaven. By linking the sacred to such practices, Hezbollah has managed to contain its losses and achieve a kind of shaky equilibrium in straitened circumstances.

Women are Hezbollah's main internal problem. 

The war in Syria means they are losing sons, brothers, and husbands. It is marginalizing their role in the party, and pushing the poorest among them to the edge of survival. The pressure that is building within the community cannot be contained for very long by stop-gap measures like delaying marriage for young men and temporary marriage for widows. 

The communal frustration and inequities that the war continues to exacerbate and deepen may soon lead to an explosion that no one will be able to prevent.