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Family Structure in Syria

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Traditional Arab family values exert a strong hold on Syrian society. Even the young generations are still experience close family ties. In a study among university students by the Norwegian research institute FAFO, 88 percent of the respondents said that their family was ‘very important’ to them; for another 11 percent, the family was ‘rather important’ (FAFO, 2008).

The man – the father – is still the head of the household in Syria. After the marriage ceremony he receives the family book, a certificate delivered to every Syrian and Syrian-Palestinian groom, in which his wife and later his children are registered. Women are never issued with a family book, except if their husband dies, although not all widows possess this certificate. Divorced women do not possess a family book. The second or third wife of a man living in her own house does not possess a family book either. The family book is required in order to obtain certain allowances (such as an heating allowance) which are accorded only to families. Single or divorced women, widows, second or third wives and their children are not considered as families.

Family laws (including inheritance laws) vary according to the religious community one belongs to (everyone has to register with a religious community, even though Syria is a secular state). In some communities, the right to divorce is denied.

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