Thursday 1 October, 2020

Watch: Increasing number of child marriages since Iraq war

Image courtesy: Girl's Globe

Image courtesy: Girl's Globe

For these men dancing in Salamiyah camp for displaced people in Mosul, today is a day of celebration. They are performing the Jazeera traditional dance at a wedding party in the camp. But for many girls, aged between 14- and 17 years-old their wedding day was a form of escape.


The Norwegian Refugee Council says it's seen an increasing number of child marriages in Iraq since the war, due to displacement, the socio-economic situation and difficult living conditions.

After giving up their education to become wives, some now say they regret the decision.

Samar Jassim is 17 and got married three months ago. But an early marriage was never her intention:

"I said to myself I will not marry until I finish my studies and achieve all my future goals. But none of these happened, everything turned upside down. I got married and I lost everything. No more study, I didn't become a doctor, nothing. I ended up sitting here like this," she says.

Early marriage is taking place in displacement camps throughout the Nineveh governorate, such as Hamam al Alil, Nimrud and Salamiyah.

Sixteen year-old Amine Shakir wishes she could turn the clock back on her decision to marry.

"If I were still single, I would finish school and get my old life back. I would finish school and would become a teacher or a doctor. It would be up to my mind. But now I am married and I am unable to do anything. Love destroyed me," she says.

Out of five married girls in displacement camps interviewed by the Associated Press, none said they were forced into getting married.

But they cited the circumstances they were living in as the major factor behind their marriage.

Four out of the five girls were studying at school when they got married but all of them have now quit.

According to Tom Peyre-Costa, Media coordinator for the Norwegian Refugee Council, the numbers of child marriages is on the rise.

"In Iraq on average 34 percent of women are married under 18 (years old), and 5 percent are married under 15 years old. But we have seen increasing numbers of child marriage since the war."

He adds that many families see no other option, as they struggle to survive.

"We see families of 7-10 people with very little resources, so this is why we see an increasing number of parents, fathers, having to marry their daughters because they simply cannot afford feeding them, buying them clothes or sustaining their families, so it's a way of protecting them due to the lack of resources."

The average cost of marriage plus the wedding expenses can reach up to 2,000 US dollars.

The lion's share of this money goes to the bride's family to buy gold, dresses, and makeup for the girl - but the rest is given as cash to the father, brother or the uncle of the girl.

These weddings are conducted and registered by mullahs and are considered legitimate from the Sharia perspective.

However, the married girls often have no rights in the case of a divorce since most are not registered at the civil rights courts in Mosul.

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