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.


Tortured, persecuted, deported: a tribe’s ordeal at the hands of Qatar

Updated 12 min 47 sec ago
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Tortured, persecuted, deported: a tribe’s ordeal at the hands of Qatar

  • The tribe’s ordeal began in 1996, when some of their members voiced support for Sheikh Khalifa Al-Thani
  • Another member of the tribe twice lost his job at Qatar Petroleum, in 1999 and 2003, simply because he was a member of the Al-Ghufran tribe

GENEVA: Members of a prominent tribe told an audience in Geneva on Thursday how they were stripped of their nationality and suffered torture, forced displacement and deportation in a 22-year campaign of systematic persecution by authorities in Qatar.
“My story is about wanting my rights, and I hope my story reaches your hearts,” said Hamed Al-Ghufrani, whose family was forced to flee Qatar for the UAE in 1996.
Another member of the tribe twice lost his job at Qatar Petroleum, in 1999 and 2003, simply because he was a member of the Al-Ghufran tribe, and had his nationality revoked in 2005. 
His 14-year-old son spoke of being a “stateless person” and called on the UN to end the persecution so he could return to Qatar.
The press conference at the Swiss Press Club, organized by the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, came two days after the Al-Ghufran delegation staged a protest in front of the UN building in Geneva during the 39th session of the UN Human Rights Council.
The tribe’s ordeal began in 1996, when some of their members voiced support for Sheikh Khalifa Al-Thani, the Qatari emir deposed the previous year by his son Hamad, father of the current emir, Sheikh Tamim.
About 800 Al-Ghufran families, more than 6,000 people, were stripped of their citizenship and had their property confiscated. Many remain stateless, both in Qatar and in neighboring Gulf countries.
“They have taken away our social, political and economic rights,” said
Jabir bin Saleh Al-Ghufrani, a tribal elder. “The Al-Ghufran tribe has been subjected to unjust treatment.
“I left on a vacation in 1996, and now I can never go back to my country. I can go to any place on this earth, but not my home, not Qatar.”
Members of the delegation produced passports, certificates and other documents to show that their right to Qatari citizenship was being denied.
“I ask for my rights. Our people have been asking for our rights for a very long time now and no one has even explained to us why this is happening to us,” said Hamad Khaled Al-Araq.
Jaber Hamad Al-Araq, the tribe member fired twice by Qatar Petroleum, said: “The consequences of revoking our citizenship came in waves. They took away health care, education and public services. They took away all the tools that would allow us to live in Qatar with dignity, as human beings.”
Many of the tribe have suffered from depression and other medical conditions as a result of their ill-treatment. “I was rejected many times for jobs because of the injustice we face,” said Jaber Mohamed Al-Ghufrani. “They would reject me, the interior ministry office would reject me, just for being from the tribe. We are marginalized, without value, and left on the sidelines in our own country.
“I am responsible for my family, consisting of my wife and children, and we have faced many injustices that led us to have psychological trauma. We have suffered enough.”
Abdul Hadi Jaber Al-Ghufrani, another member of the tribe, told the press conference: “All members of the Al-Ghufran tribe without exception suffered from the decision to revoke their nationality.
“Those who remained in Qatar are unable to work, travel, or act like normal human beings, they cannot trade, they cannot even give their identity.
“Those who were expelled and forcibly displaced live in exile. They cannot apply or work in any job where they can get money for they basic needs, and most of them have no official identity papers. They can no longer see their families and loved ones.
“We are here to demand our rights and we will not stop until we get our rights. From today for the next 20 years, we will not stop.”
The youngest member of the delegation, Mohammed Ali Amer Al-Ghufrani Al-Marri, 14, said: “My nationality was revoked when I was less than one year old.
“I did not have the right to grow up in my own country, I was not given the right to stay there. I wish to return to my country and enjoy my rights as a citizen.”