syria

what a god awful mess that is. =/

what’s going on there? well, obviously, there are several different groups all of which marry endogamously, many of which marry their cousins regularly.

a survey published in 2009 found that:

“The results showed that the overall frequency of consanguinity [first-, double-first- and second-cousin marriages] was 30.3% in urban and 39.8% in rural areas. Total rate of consanguinity was found to be 35.4%…. The mean proportion of consanguineous marriages ranged from 67.5% in Al Raqa province to 22.1% in Latakia province…. The western and north-western provinces (including Tartous, Lattakia and Edlep) recorded lower levels of inbreeding than the central, northern and southern provinces….”

so, across the whole country, the average cousin-marriage rate was 35.4% or over one-third of all marriages in syria were between close cousins. cousin marriage is more common in rural areas, but even in urban areas, including damascus, about one-in-three marriages is between close cousins. compare that to a rate of 46.5% in libya and 38.9% in egypt.

here are the provinces/governorates of syria:

al raqa/ar raqqah province has the highest consanguinity rate at 67.5%. ar raqqah has a large bedouin population [pg. 300], so it’s not surprising to find such a high rate of in-marriage. bedouins everywhere inbreed A LOT.

latakia in the west has the lowest consanguinity rate in syria at just 22.1%. two other neighboring provinces, tartous/tartus and edlep/idlib, also have comparatively low cousin marriage rates. these provinces are where the alawites are concentrated, so i’m guessing they’re the ones with relatively low cousin marriage rates compared to the rest of the syrian population. (interestingly, the alawites are also concentrated in the plains around the city of homs, which has a majority sunni muslim population, the arch rivals of the alawites, so i guess we shouldn’t be surprised that homs is getting pounded.)

the authors say that the central, northern and southern provinces have higher inbreeding rates than these western ones where the alawites live.

in the south we find the druze who practice father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage. in fact, the druze and other peoples of the levant are probably the ones who invented fbd marriage and they’ve likely been marrying that way since well before the time of christ. fbd marriage prolly started in the levant, spread to the arabs via the hebrews, and then the arabs spread it to peoples like the persians, afghanis and pakistanis. in addition to the druze, the sunni muslims and the alawites in syria also marry their father’s brother’s daughters [pg. 112].

in the north in aleppo we find syrian turks. if they’re anything like their brethren in turkey then they, too, are probably marrying their cousins with a preference for fbd marriage. there are kurds in the northeast in al hasakah province and, yes, you won’t be surprised to hear it, but kurds marry their cousins, too — more so than the turks in turkey, for instance — and have a preference for fbd marriage.

so not only is syria full of several different ethnic groups and “religious sects” (read: discrete sub-populations), almost all of them are inbred in that they marry their cousins regularly (i.e. not just marry endogamously) and have been doing so for eons — AND almost all of them practice father’s brother’s daughter marriage.

recipe for disaster.

update 04/22: see also syrian tribes

(note: comments do not require an email. not gonna happen.)

Advertisements

8 Comments

  1. Blaming the problems in Syria on fathers brothers daughter marriages, or at least on kin marriages, is fair. If you marry kin you have babies, enough babies to survive, so of course you have troubles. When the day comes when nobody marries kin, we will start to see the end of war, prejucice, crime, poverty, enviornmental decline, alienation and ingrown tonails. (Am I getting sarcastic? It’s a personal failing. Even I concede that fbd seems too close.) Seriously the thight communites you describe sound like a set up for intense local loyalies. That is indeed a potential difficutly. As for fbd marriages having been invented in the last few thousand years, I have trouble believing it. I would have to dig through Robin Fox’s books to be sure; his first one done as a graduate student describes all sorts of patterns. I think fbd has been around a much longer time and is wide ranging.

    Reply

  2. Yeah that’s why the U.S. needs to stay the f— out of Syria. The bit of trouble is that it is entirely possible that the Sunnis might depose the Alawites, and if that happens without any assistance from us that might earn us yet another Sunni enemy. Perhaps if it becomes clear that the Sunni insurgency is going to win, we should provide some token assistance and start going on about how much we always hated Assad, just to keep up appearances and hopefully have the favor remembered. Or maybe we should just not get involved…

    Reply

  3. @linton – “If you marry kin you have babies, enough babies to survive, so of course you have troubles.”

    i forgot about a post that i wrote last summer:

    cousin marriage and increasing population size

    in it i’ve got different muslim populations with increasing, stable, and declining cousin marriage rates (as of the 1990s). i’ve also got population charts. all of the populations continued to increase after the 90s, including the ones with the declining cousin marriage rates.

    it was just a quickie post, though, and is certainly not the last word on the subject. more investigation should be done into the question.

    @linton – “Seriously the thight communites you describe sound like a set up for intense local loyalies.”

    yes. the “dark side” of altruistic behavior (genes for altruism likely increasing relatively quickly in inbred populations).

    @linton – “As for fbd marriages having been invented in the last few thousand years, I have trouble believing it.”

    that is the conclusion of a couple of russian anthropologists who seem to have done a lot of work in this area. i quoted one of them, korotayev, in this post. here is the reference.

    korotayev quotes another russian anthropologist, rodionov. i haven’t read his work ’cause it’s in russian! (^_^)

    Rodionov, M. A. 1999. Eshcho raz ob ortokuzennom brake u arabov (Once More about Parallel Cousin Marriage among the Arabs). Algebra rodstva 3:264-66.

    that doesn’t mean, of course, that some group, somewhere else, at some point in time didn’t also marry their fbds. it’s just that’s it’s the most common in the levant/middle east/areas where the 8th century muslim caliphate was.

    interestingly, i just read the other day that the balinese prefer fbd marriage, although the majority of their cousin marriages are not in actuality fbd marriages. don’t know if they “invented” it on their own or it was introduced by muslims at some point.

    Reply

    1. HBD chick: “in it i’ve got different muslim populations with increasing, stable, and declining cousin marriage rates (as of the 1990s). i’ve also got population charts. all of the populations continued to increase after the 90s, including the ones with the declining cousin marriage rates.”

      Thanks. Interesting. One thing does nag me. You can overdo consaguinity. I mean inbreeding depression is real. I don’t think there is going to be a simple relationship betseen cousin marriages and fertility. Exactly what the realtionship is going to be went you lump whole populations is beyond me. But there is no substitute for data.

      “”@linton – “As for fbd marriages having been invented in the last few thousand years, I have trouble believing it.”that is the conclusion of a couple of russian anthropologists”

      Thanks for the link. The bood by Robin Fox on kinship and marriage is called Kinshipa and Marriage, rather unsruprisingly. I’ll try to find whether he mentions father’s brother’s daughter marriage pattern.

      Reply

  4. hbd chick “that is the conclusion of a couple of russian anthropologists I ”

    (This is a second try. My first vanished. I hope it doesn’t turn up somewhere.) I take your point on the question of the Syrians inventing father’s brothers’ daughter marriages. When I looked back at Kinship and Marriage I had mixed up parallel and cross cousins. And of course something could be invented more than once. The question of why fbd marriages might become more prevalent with Islam just might be due to the fact that in Islam women are secluded. The Koran does not require it, so it was already an Arab tradition. Heroditus does not mention it although it’s just his sort of subject. That may because the Greeks practiced it, in which case it may have been introduced into the Mideast by Alexander. That would be ironic.

    I looked at your post on the rise of cousin marriages paralleling the rise in popultion size. Your source questioned why population size should cause people to marry cousins more often. At the cost of being tiresome of couse I wonder whether the cousin marriages are causing the population to rise. As I said, can’t be sure. Inbreeding depression complicates matters. Thanks for steering me to the data.

    Reply

  5. @linton – “The question of why fbd marriages might become more prevalent with Islam just might be due to the fact that in Islam women are secluded. The Koran does not require it, so it was already an Arab tradition.”

    ah! well, i think women are secluded in arab societies because of the fbd marriage and how that makes everyone in the clan/tribe very related to one another. you don’t want your daughters going off and marrying a stranger because you’ve got so many of your genes invested in her.

    have a read of (the very smart) stanley kurtz’s “veil of fears” — only read it keeping in mind the genetic relatedness.

    @linton – “Your source questioned why population size should cause people to marry cousins more often. At the cost of being tiresome of couse I wonder whether the cousin marriages are causing the population to rise.”

    yup! (^_^)

    @linton – “As I said, can’t be sure. Inbreeding depression complicates matters.”

    yes, how is it with cousin marriage and fecundity? the iceland study found that third-fourth cousins had the most kids, wasn’t it? the thing with these middle-easterners is that they are very much marrying their first-cousins — sometimes double-first-cousins! not all the time, of course. the cousin-marriage rate in saudi arabia is something like 50% of all marriages being between first- and second-cousins, but i wonder what the rest of them are doing? marrying third and fourth cousins perhaps? and how many kids are they all having?

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s