By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
The vacuum brought forth by the absence of a strong state has led to increasing numbers of young women cast into forced marriages as compensation for perceived grievances between tribes. These marriages, called Fasliya Marriage for an Arabic word meaning marriages arranged for compensation, pose a serious threat to the civil rights of women in these tribes as they become pawns to be bartered between warring factions.
The increasing tribal tensions in areas of Iraq, and the absence of government law enforcement upholding federal laws banning the practice, has led to increases in frequency of these marriages through the resurrection of traditional tribal forms of conflict resolution.
Women who are placed into fasliya marriages are prohibited from divorcing their arranged husbands and are stripped of their civil rights as they are now considered bound to their husbands as a form of settlement contract.
According to Al-Monitor, tribal disputes worsened in Basara (in the South of Iraq) and in 2014 the Minister of the Interior Mohammed al-Ghabban and Governor Majid al Nasrawi sought to end the intertribal violence and encouraged chieftains to end their disputes. Information began to spread that fifty women were forced into fasliya marriages to settle the dispute between the al-Shawi and al-Karamsha tribes. This June a tribal affairs consultant in Basara, Sheiky Mohammad al-Maryani stated that the conflict began after the death of a woman during an armed battle between the tribes. In a statement the consultant gave a rather worrying re-assurance that the al-Shawi tribe presented ten, not fifty, women to al-Karamsha to settle the affair. Both tribes refused to comment indicating it was a personal matter.
The resurgence of fasliya marriage is however receiving a strong rebuke from clerics, civil rights advocates and women’s organizations.
Safad Abdelaziz, representing the Protection and Development of Iraqi Family Association, announced an education and public relations program titled “Unite to end settlement tribal laws against women in Iraq” in the hopes that further education can bring social pressure to end this forced marriage practice.
Ms. Abdelaziz in an interview with Al-Monitor is quoted as stating:
“This campaign aims at distributing leaflets in schools, universities and markets to raise social awareness, specifically among women, on the illegality of this practice and the need to end it as it violates domestic and international human rights laws. Representatives of this campaign also visited tribal sheikhs in Diwaniyah and Dhi Qar to encourage them to denounce the practice. Sheikhs, however, were not so fond of the ‘intrusive’ campaign, as they described it. Some sheikhs even prohibited us from distributing the leaflets.”
Reportedly the government was able to end the practice in the 1970’s but lack of enforcement recently in rural areas detached from the oversight of the federal government, and the reliance on tribal leadership, has caused many traditional customs that are out of line with modern ideals of civil rights to return.
The state is beginning to take notice of the denial of the rights of these girls and women and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Iraq called upon the leadership to put an end to “inhumane practices against Iraqi women” and challenged the police and other officials to act as mediators in tribal disputes before chieftains resort to victimizing girls as property to be offered for dispute resolution.
Some pushback is occurring among the religious influences of the country. A representative of the Shiite authority Sheikh Ahmad al-Safi denounced fasliya marriage stating “In any case, a girl should not to be forced into marrying someone she does not want.”
But with the increasing fragmentation and warring among various societies in Iraq, tribalism and abandonment of modern notion of women’s rights will certainly increase if it is not soon abated.
By Darren Smith
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