A Big Greek Wedding for Syrian Refugees

By Gabe Cahn, HIAS.org

Last month, in a precedent-setting ruling, a Greek county court recognized the right of Khaled*, a Syrian refugee, and Noor*, a Syrian asylum seeker, to receive a civil marriage license.

A few weeks later, on the evening of Monday, August 7, friends and supporters gathered to mark the occasion in the Mytilini municipality near the refugee camp where Khaled, 23, and Noor, 21, first met last year.

The ceremony was performed by the vice-mayor of Lesvos and attended by the civil registrar, the couple's two witnesses, HIAS Greece staff and members of the media.

The two had previously been married according to their religious customs, but Noor’s application to marry Khaled, who unlike Noor had already been recognized as a refugee, was initially rejected by the Municipality of Lesvos due to some missing paperwork.

Official state recognition of their right to a family life, in light of Noor’s inability to provide documentation necessary for a civil marriage license, was an important step forward for the social and legal rights of the more than 60,000 refugees living in Greece.

“It’s important to send a message that refugees can live normal lives and contribute to Greek society,” said HIAS Greece country director Vassilis Kerasiotis.

“This wedding was a beautiful symbol of love and commitment for two people who have every right to be legally married in Greece. Our hope is that an even greater number of the refugee rights guaranteed by the European legal framework will soon be upheld by Greek authorities.”

Kerasiotis and his colleagues initiated the legal action on the couple’s behalf earlier this year. On July 13, the Court ruled that in view of Noor’s ruptured relationship with her country of origin, failure to produce a certificate of celibacy and a birth certificate should not stand in the way of receiving a marriage license or forming a family.

As for Khaled and Noor, they are expecting their first child and plan to take it one step at a time as they work to build a peaceful life in safety.  

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of clients.

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