It had never occurred to Moutaz that his wedding night would become a painful memory. He spent the duration of his wedding at the headquarters of the Hisbah [internal security] bureau of Daesh [ISIS], in the city of Manbij in the Aleppo countryside.
Unfortunately for the young man, his neighbor was not only a Saudi, but also a judge in the organization. He did all he could to stop the newlyweds from having a normal, joyous evening.
Moutaz’s other neighbor says: “When everyone present [at the wedding] were at the height of our joy, the Hisbah patrol descended upon us on the grounds of our—allegedly—causing public disturbance for our neighbors with our car horns; as well as committing a Sharia Law infringement by listening to songs."
He continues, describing those moments: “We felt that the hours we spent inside the Hisbah offices were years—imagine how Moutaz would have felt! He was released only after much pleading and many intercessions; the Hisbah official only accepting to release Moutaz after he’d memorized parts of the Quran. He did, however, make an unproblematic return to his bride after his release."
Weddings: A Social Duty, Not a Joyous Occasion!
The recurrence of similar arrests of grooms in areas under Daesh’s control, has prompted residents to limit their weddings to the most minimal of social duties. They now meet and greet their relatives, loved ones, and friends; but without any semblance of their traditional joy and cheer.
It seems that there is no place in the "land of the Caliphate" for concerts, folk songs, music, even [traditional] religious celebrations. They have all been banned at weddings as severely as have been classic songs!
Educator Muhammad Ali from the city of Manbij in the Aleppo countryside says: “The organization [Daesh] has prevented any manifestation of joy and celebration that was previously the norm—the singing and chanting. Had it not been for the sight of people meeting around the wedding banquet, one would not know of a wedding taking place at all."
This strict prohibition has led to the closure of wedding halls, after they became empty. The organization wishes to hear no other sound except the sound of bullets, apparently.
Moutaz’s incident was neither the first, nor was it by any means unique: Ahmad of the Eastern Manbij countryside had been arrested for several months, for having raised the loudspeakers at his small wedding. His neighbor, also affiliated with the organization, faced a similar incident—as well as numerous other young men, who felt the “embrace” of Daesh’s gaols, rather than the embrace of their new brides.
Deserted Habits and Occupations
This putative [Islamic] State organization and its practices have virtually buried a host of social norms and customs related to weddings. Weddings have become limited to only a few hours, after they used to stretch on to several days—particularly in the Eastern Aleppo countryside whose habits are almost identical to those of Raqqa and its countryside.
Wedding processions are no longer the ritual practice they used to be; letting car horns loose [as a sign of joy and celebration] would certainly mean prison time!
The Ta’alilah [or Henna Day] has completely disappeared. The bride is now often forced to cover her white wedding gown with black cloth, from the moment she leaves her parents’ home until she reaches her husband’s house; for fear of the Hisbah elements.
"The organization has ruled the street with sheer terror. Not a month goes by without a crucifixion or execution taking place—thereby prompting people to steer as clear as possible from any conduct which would annoy the organization," says Ali, the lawyer from North Aleppo. He adds: “The organization’s regulations are enforced according to whim, making people even avoid many things that are permitted, for fear of falling under the whims and moods of one or the other of the [organization’s] elements.”
Even some of the more remote villages in rural Aleppo and Raqqa have not escaped the organization’s regulations; despite having been somewhat distant from the Revolution and the centers of revolutionary activity. This is due to the presence of elements of the organization in these villages assuming the role of the executive branch.
The organization’s draconian laws and procedures have effectively cut off the livelihood of singers and cantors; the harm spreading to wedding halls’ employees, chairs’ rental shops, audio systems shops, cassette stores, as well as barbershops—whether for men or women.
One religious cantor, converted his office in the Sabe’ Bahrat district of Manbij to a grocery store; later renting it out; then travelling outside Syria, as a result of the [strict] behaviors of the organization.
He was not the first singer to do so; singers have left the areas in Syria under the organization’s control en masse, searching for alternative occupations, as many wedding halls were converted into goods’ warehouses.
Change Strikes Hair Salons!
A hallowed tradition in the process of preparing for a wedding in Syria, is to visit beauty and hair salons—both for men and women. This visit has also not been spared from Daesh’s interventions, making men entering the barber shop prior to a wedding a risky affair; whereas women salons remain less hazardous.
Mahmoud M., a barber from Aleppo, says: “The regulations are explicit and clear: We dare not shave or even lighten a person’s beard—not even if he were the groom; and are only permitted to touch the hair of the head. This [severity] has prompted many of my colleagues to emigrate to Turkey."
What About Marriage Contracts?
From the religious point of view, marriage contracts in area under the control of Daesh are conducted by a sheikh—oftentimes an acquaintance or a friends. Daesh allows for its documentation in its [religious Sharia] courts. Registering these marriage in Syrian [regime] courts, has become a cumbersome and dangerous affair for those Syrians living in the organization’s areas of control.
University student Abdallah says: “Most marriage contracts are performed in that manner. No one even dares to register his marriage in the official courts [of the regime] for two reasons. The first is related to the fear of the organization [Daesh]; and the second related to fearing the regime. Registering one’s marriage at the official [regime] courts requires approval of the Recruitment Division; raising tangible fears of young men [applying for marriage] being drafted or taken for reserve duty.“
And barring any documentation, marriages remain as if hanging in a legal limbo—only recognized in Daesh areas; in anticipation of finding a comprehensive solution for all of Syria. In the event of a problem occurring, Daesh calls for witnesses. A marriage can also be registered in the regime government courts—should one of the married couple be forced to travel, or in case of [family] reunions. This, however, requires the payment of large sums of money to middlemen, as they are concluded without the actual presence of the married couple.
A Space for Life
All of the above notwithstanding, the organization’s procedures have not been able to prevent people from glimpsing even the most simple moments of joy inside their own homes. People still listen to music, songs, and Aleppo Qudud [traditional Andalusian-influenced music]—albeit clandestinely. This means that the organization has failed to convince all the Syrians in the areas under its control areas of its rhetoric—especially that it is following a policy of coercion.
Recently, a rumor has been circulating in Manbij regarding the organization's intention to remove all satellite dishes from rooftops; thereby clearing the way for yet another draconian legal firman [edict], it seems!