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 Over 4,000 arranged marital engagements annulled in Iraqi Kurdistan's Raniya

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Over 4,000 arranged marital engagements annulled in Iraqi Kurdistan's Raniya  7.4.2012  

Kurdish woman at an engagement party Photo: Flickr
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April 7, 2012

SULAIMANIYAH, Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — Some 2,000 cases of arranged marital engagements were annulled over a five-year period in Raniya city because they were made when the engaged were only children.

After the human rights office in Raparin district realized that there was a great number of boys and girls who had been named to marry each other when they were only children, the office formed a committee in 2004 to follow up the subject, said office director Luqman Haji.

Haji added that within five years the committee negotiated with the relatives of the engaged boys and girls and managed to annul the engagement of more than 4,000 individuals "upon their request and after the consent of their relatives".

The official said his office also arranged for awareness raising courses and seminars on the issue of arranged marriages.

"But it's more than two years that because of dissolving the Kurdistan Ministry of Human Rights… we've stopped such activities."

The ministry is supposed to be replaced by a board. But the board has yet to be formed two and a half years since the ministry was scrapped.

Haji said that despite his office having stopped its activities, there are some women's organizations along with the Kurdistan Islamic Scientists' Union that perpetually advice the public on the issue of arranged marriages.

"Therefore, we feel that the phenomenon is [reducing] or dropping in numbers," he added.

In Kurdish culture there are different kinds of arranged marriages. Sometimes parents decide for their very young or even newborn sons or daughters to marry each other when they grow up. Sometimes a small girl is married off to an older man.

In other cases a brother or a father agrees to marry off his own sister or daughter to another man in exchange for that man's sister or daughter for himself.

Sometimes when the fight between two families ends in murder,www.ekurd.net one girl - or more - on the murderer's side is given to a family of the murdered "to wash the blood".

All such trends are diminishing however, and are observed only among those with tribal mentality.

Raniya and Qala Diza are "a true hell for women and girls", after 18 cases of murder, self-immolation and domestic violence have been reported in just two months, and little action has been taken.

The latest report from a human rights group says the region, northwest of Sulaimaniyah, is quickly becoming one of the most dangerous places for women in the Middle East and effective and wide-ranging strategies, including calling a state of emergency, are urgently needed.

By Dilshad Saifaddin

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