CANBERRA – Australian women and teenage girls of Lebanese descent have approached their embassy in Beirut seeking help to escape arranged marriages and to return to Australia, a newspaper reported on Tuesday. The Australian embassy had been approached in the past two years by 12 females – seven of them under 18-years-old – fleeing their new husbands, The Australian newspaper reported.


Diplomats met Islamic clerics and Arabic community leaders in Sydney and Melbourne last year, asking for their help to prevent women and girls being taken overseas to marry against their will, the paper reported.

It said the girls were being forced to marry older men overseas as their families tried to protect them from promiscuity and Western influences at home.

Keysar Trad, president of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia and a former president of the Lebanese Muslim Association in Sydney, said Islamic leaders had been educating their community about the problem for several years.

“We’ve been trying to educate parents that marriage is not valid under Islamic law unless there is consent,” Trad said. “We’ve been dealing with this problem.”

He said the problems usually arose from “misunderstandings” between parents and daughters.