Outrage in Turkey over ‘child marriage green light’

In this file photo, Turkish students wait for the arrival of President Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara. (Reuters)
Updated 04 January 2018
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Outrage in Turkey over ‘child marriage green light’

ANKARA: Turkey’s religious affairs state agency came under heavy criticism on Thursday from the main opposition party after it reportedly said girls as young as nine could marry under Islamic law.
The Diyanet religious affairs directorate said on Tuesday the minimum age for girls to marry was nine, while for boys it was 12, according to Turkish media including Hurriyet daily quoting the agency’s official website.
The post, which took the form of an explanatory statement on Islamic law, has since been taken down, after a backlash from the opposition and women’s rights groups.
The head of the High Commission of Religious Affairs Ekrem Keles on Thursday told Hurriyet that the earliest age for a girl to marry is 17 and 18 for a boy.
“Forget a nine or a 10 year old child marrying, a child at 15 should not marry and should not be married,” he said.
The legal age to get married in Turkey is 18.
But Turkish law says that in an extraordinary circumstance, a judge can give permission for a male and female aged 16 to marry.
The controversy touched a nerve in Turkey, where child marriages are not uncommon and the fight continues to raise girls’ level of education.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Gaye Usluer accused the government of being “more interested in how to marry children at a young age when there needs to be talk on children’s education, health.”
Meanwhile CHP lawmaker Murat Bakan on Twitter said child marriages “violates children’s rights, women’s rights and human rights,” adding that the party had called for a parliamentary investigation into child marriages.
Women’s rights groups also criticized the agency, which is similar to a religious affairs ministry, accusing it of trying to legitimize child abuse and urging Diyanet to “get their hands off our children.”
The ministry said it had “never and will never approve early marriages” in a statement, saying it was only defining Islamic law.
“Forcing girls to marry before psychological and biological maturity, and before they obtain the responsibility to become a mother and form a family is not compatible with Islam which says will and consent are conditions for marriage,” it added.
Women’s groups as well as Usluer raised concern over Diyanet’s move coming after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan approved a controversial law in November allowing state-approved clerics to conduct marriage ceremonies.
“When we said ‘if you give muftis (clerics employed by Diyanet) the power to conduct marriages, the issue of child brides will increase’, this is what we meant,” she said, according to CHP’s website.
Opponents often claim that Erdogan and his Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party are attacking the republic’s secular foundations, claims dismissed by the government.
In 2016, the government was forced to throw out a bill that could have pardoned men convicted of child-sex assault after a public outcry.


Retired Lebanese soldiers in tense standoff with army during benefit cuts protest

Updated 19 July 2019
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Retired Lebanese soldiers in tense standoff with army during benefit cuts protest

  • Dressed in military uniforms, large numbers of veterans attempted to force their way through barricades set up to stop demonstrators reaching the city’s parliament building where a final vote on a controversial draft austerity budget was taking place
  • The meeting to vote on the 2019 draft budget came after a marathon three days of discussions

BEIRUT: Retired Lebanese soldiers on Friday came close to clashing with the country’s army when weeks of protests over planned benefit cuts reached boiling point in the capital Beirut.
Dressed in military uniforms, large numbers of veterans attempted to force their way through barricades set up to stop demonstrators reaching the city’s parliament building where a final vote on a controversial draft austerity budget was taking place.
A military source told Arab News that the Lebanese army leadership had decided to block access to Najma Square, in Beirut’s Central District, where Parliament members were sitting.
But former soldiers, joined by the parents of army martyrs and activists from the Sabaa and Communist parties, surrounded the building in nearby streets before attempting to push through barbed wire, concrete and metal barriers erected by the Lebanese army and the Internal Security Forces.
The protesters, waving Lebanese and army flags, got as far as the entrance to Maarad Street, on which Parliament is located, putting them in direct confrontation with the Lebanese troops.
Ten brigades of reinforcements were drafted in to help push back the veterans before protest leaders eased tensions by calling for a retreat to a nearby square to avoid any further clashes.
The meeting to vote on the 2019 draft budget came after a marathon three days of discussions. Before entering the parliamentary session, Lebanese Minister of Defense Elias Bou Saab said that “misleading the retired soldiers” would be “harmful to the image and demands of the protesters” and called on them to carry out “peaceful demonstrations.” He added that there had been mixed and confused messages regarding benefit cuts.
However, retired Brig. Gen. Georges Nader had vowed that protesters would not back off until the vote on their benefits was dropped.
Discussing the protests in Parliament, Samy Gemayel, president of the Phalange party, objected to the reduction in the army budget, to which Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said: “This has been concluded on the bases of an understanding with the army and the military establishment.”
MP Paula Yacoubian said that “retired soldiers are trying to storm Parliament,” to which Berri said: “Those who want to storm Parliament have not yet been born.”
The row had centered on a controversial article concerning amendments to the country’s income tax act, and Lebanese Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil insisted on defending it. He said: “It does not cost the retired soldiers, for instance, more than 3,000 Lebanese pounds ($2) per month. This amount rises to 400,000 pounds for brigadiers.” He added: “Which country in the world gives a retiree 85 percent of his salary?”
After a meeting between the minister and Nader in Parliament, the retired brigadier general went out to reassure the veterans that cuts from their salaries in respect of medicine and income tax would be reduced. Less intense protests continued for more than three hours before Parliament approved the relevant article in the budget.
Meanwhile, Berri had started the Parliament session by reading a resignation submitted by Hezbollah MP Nawaf Musawi.