DAMASCUS: Some 60 Palestinian couples were married in a mass wedding ceremony at their refugee camp in Syria in the first event of its kind to be sponsored by the Islamist Hamas movement.
The pro-Hamas marriage ceremony late Friday night was attended by 5,000 people. It aimed to help young people deal with the prohibitive costs of marriage, according to Hamas officials at the event.
Hamas helped me make my dreams come true. I want to thank Hamas simply because it made me happy, said 27-year-old groom Abdel Rahman Taha.
Young people in the Middle East, particularly unemployed Palestinians living in refugee camps, often put off marriage for years because of the high cost of providing a home and furnishing it.
In addition to organizing the event, Hamas provided each couple with $1,500 (1,088 euros) in a mixture of cash and household appliances, the couples said.
While this is the first such mass wedding to be held by Hamas in Syria, the group has sponsored others elsewhere in the region, including one in the Palestinian city of Nablus in 2005 involving 226 couples.
Hamas sponsorship of the event was not left in doubt as each groom wore a green sash emblazoned with the organization s slogan over a black suit. The women wore long white dresses and religious headscarves.
The United States considers Hamas a terrorist organization, but the group has widespread popularity among Palestinians, in part due to providing social services, such as these weddings.