As an infant Fatima was ‘promised in marriage’ by her father to her cousin- a man 30 years her elder. Unfortunately Fatima is just one of thousands of girls and young women, who are being forced to marry in very young age. But this practice does not go without criticism any more. Various orgnaisations in Iraqi-Kurdistan and Iraq started awareness campaigns and lobbied for a legal ban. Wadi’s Team in Germian is one of them and in order to raise more awareness they regularly publish in local newspapers.
This is their latest pieces written by Nawzhin Khalil, who interviewed Fatima:
Fatima shared her story: “When I was an infant I was ‘given’ (by my parents) to my cousin who was 33 years older than me. When I was four my mother died leaving me and my brother alone, my father married another woman”. She explained that the real problems began when she turned 12 and her stepmother told her that she was to be engaged to her cousin, as promised. Fatima was very frightened and hid, so without her approval the wedding plans were finalized. When she was confronted with her upcoming wedding she cried and begged her father and brother not to force her to marry this cousin because he was old and disabled. However, it was of no use, they threatened to kill her if she did not marry him. Fatima said she will never forgive her father for what he did to her.
Once married -and still only 12 years old- Fatima recounted how her husband physically and verbally abused her every day. When he would tire, his brother would start hitting her. As she was so young she would sleep with her sisters-in-law in their room, but her husband would take her to his room, by force.
One day her husband and his brother hit her too much, and she sought refuge in her parent’s home. When her father find out, instead of comforting her he got angry and hit her saying she shamed him, because how can a wife leave her husband? Despite her stepmom trying to stop him her father beat her and told her husband to take her home.
For four years Fatima did not become pregnant and her in-laws accused her of not sleeping with her husband. Eventually she was taken to a doctor who explained that she was very young, too you to become pregnant. When a few years later Fatima gave birth to a baby girl she hoped that the abuse would stop. But nothing would stop the abuse, even birthing three girls and four boys. Now her husband is sick, confined to his bed, and has stopped hitting her. Fatima said “even if he dies I will be afraid of him just passing by his grave”.
This kind of marriage was a common ways of marring girls in the past. However, now it is banned by Kurdistan’s law No. 8 Combating Domestic Violence.
Qadr Zhawan, a humanitarian, explained in that in the law no.55 article 10 regarding marriage certification states that “anyone who gets a marriage certification outside the court will face one million Iraqi dinar to three million Iraqi dinar fine”. He also went on tho say that this way of Kurdish traditional marriage has caused many conflicts and separations in families. Although the law is an excellent entry point, without enforcement and education stories like Fatima’s will continue to be all too common.