‘Child marriage’ bill stirs outrage in Iraq

Ammar Toama, who heads the Shiite parliamentary group Fadila, said the bill’s aim was to bring the law “in line with the beliefs” of practicing Muslims. (Reuters)
Updated 23 November 2017

‘Child marriage’ bill stirs outrage in Iraq

BAGDHAD: A proposal in Iraq’s parliament to scrap the minimum age for Muslim girls to marry has stirred outrage among critics who view it as a license “to rape children.”
Conservative Shiite deputies on October 31 proposed an amendment to a 1959 law that set the minimum age for marriage at 18.
The initial legislation, passed shortly after the fall of the Iraqi monarchy, transferred the right to decide on family affairs from religious authorities to the state and its judiciary.
But now the new bill looks to go back on that — and would authorize the marriage of any girl if it had the consent of the religious leaders from the Shiite or Sunni Muslim community to which her parents belong.
In effect, it makes “the opinion of the Shiite and Sunni ulema (scholars) obligatory for judges,” said a liberal independent MP, Faiq Al-Sheikh, a member of Iraq’s legal commission.
Historically, he recalled, Islam has allowed the marriage of pubescent girls from the age of nine, the same as Aisha when she is believed to have been married to the Prophet Muhammad.
Social media has been flooded with criticism of the parliamentary bill, ranging from outright indignation to black humor, with anger also rife on the streets.
“It’s a law worthy of the Islamic State (jihadist group) that provides legal cover to the rape of children,” Hadi Abbas, an army retiree in the southern city of Kut, said.
Ali Lefta, a 40-year-old teacher in the port city of Basra, said it amounted to “the murder of the innocence of children” and that the bill was “the latest in a string of stupid laws based on tribal and confessional modes of thinking.”
In defense of the bill sponsored by his party, Ammar Toama, who heads the Shiite parliamentary group Fadila, said it “makes no mention of age and stipulates only that she (bride) must be pubescent, capable of deciding, and have the accord of her tutor and a judge.”
Under the Iraqi constitution, citizens have to declare their religious affiliation on certain issues. Marriage and inheritance terms for Shiites differ from those for Sunnis.
Toama said the bill’s aim was to bring the law “in line with the beliefs” of practicing Muslims.
But foreign missions in Baghdad and the United Nations have been up in arms, warning against institutionalized discrimination against women and girls.
Many Iraqis like Safia Mohssen, a mother of three girls, also remain opposed and have taken to mocking the priorities of parliamentarians.
“We have war, crises, unemployment, and yet our parliament is busy with laws that violate children’s rights!” she fumed. “The Islamists want to take us back to the Middle Ages.”
Majeda Al-Tamimi, a woman legislator, said she was confident that many of her colleagues in parliament would oppose the bill.
But whether it passes or not, women like Umm Mohammed in the conservative rural province of Zi Qar, who wed at the age of 14, said marriage was a family affair.
“Only families know when their daughter has reached puberty and at what age she can marry,” said the 65-year-old Iraqi.


Three Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers at Gaza border: ministry

Updated 18 August 2019

Three Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers at Gaza border: ministry

  • Attack helicopter and tank had fired at ‘armed suspects’ along the barrier that separates Israel from the Gaza Strip

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: Three Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers in the northern Gaza Strip, the Palestinian health ministry said Sunday, hours after three rockets were fired at Israel from the blockaded enclave.

The ministry said another Palestinian was hospitalized in the shooting that came after the Israeli army said an attack helicopter and tank had fired at “armed suspects” along the barrier that separates Israel from Gaza.

“We just identified a number of armed suspects from Gaza approaching the security fence with Israel. We fired toward them,” the army said a statement posted on its Twitter account.

The latest violence came after Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip fired three rockets at southern Israel late Saturday, the Israeli army said, in the second such attack in 24 hours.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The army said two of the projectiles had been intercepted by its Iron Dome aerial defense system but it did not specify what happened to the third rocket.

Air raid sirens had sounded in the southern town of Sderot and its surroundings.

On Friday Palestinians in Gaza fired a rocket at Sderot, in what the army said was the first such attack since July 12.

In response, Israeli warplanes struck at least three targets in the Gaza Strip early on Saturday but caused no casualties, a Palestinian security source said.

The strikes hit a Hamas observation post in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, an unidentified target near Gaza City and open ground near Deir El Balah in the central part of the territory, the source said.

An Israeli army statement mentioned only two strikes, against “underground targets belonging to the Hamas terror organization in the northern and central Gaza Strip.”

Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, ruled by Islamist movement Hamas, have fought three wars since 2008.

And since March 2018, regular protests and clashes have erupted along the border of the blockaded coastal enclave.

At least 305 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza or the border area since then, the majority during demonstrations and clashes.

Seven Israelis have also been killed in Gaza-related violence over the same period.