A father in Yemen has asked, not for money, but for one million Facebook “likes” as dowry for his daughter’s hand in marriage.
Yemen is a very traditional society, but one marriage there has been given a very modern twist. Instead of asking his daughter’s husband-to-be for a dowry payment, Salem Ayash, a poet from the city of Taiz, has asked for one million Facebook likes. That’s a lot in a country of just 25 million, where internet use is limited.
“It’s the first time we’ve heard of something like this,” says Bashraheel Bashraheel, a journalist with Yemen’s Al-Ayyam newspaper. The story has made big waves on social media there, he says, with countless bloggers writing urging people to support the page so the couple can get married. The page was set up on Sunday and has 30,000 likes so far. “No-one in Yemen can afford dowries anymore,” says Ayash, explaining why he’s asking for a digital dowry – rather than gold or money.
The fact that many young men cannot afford dowries, and so cannot get married, is a hot topic in Yemen, says Bashraheel – with numerous attempts over the past few years to set a maximum legal amount. Neighbours often club together to help pay a dowry – which is set by the father of the bride – and mass marriages are becoming more popular as a way of making it more affordable.
Those commenting on Salem Ayash’s Facebook page seem divided on whether it’s a good idea or not. Many have thanked him for raising the issue of dowry payments, but others have questioned his motivations. “All you want is to use your daughter to seek fame,” writes one – noting that the Facebook likes are for his own personal page, rather than that of his daughter or her husband-to-be. Ayash told the BBC that he wants to see evidence his future son-in-law is making an effort to raise the one million Facebook likes – but he won’t be rigid. “If I see that he’s worked hard, I’m willing to be flexible to see them happily married.”