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
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