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.


Lebanon’s Aoun says Israeli anti-tunnel action no risk to peace

Updated 11 December 2018
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Lebanon’s Aoun says Israeli anti-tunnel action no risk to peace

  • Israel says Hezbollah, Lebanon’s most powerful armed group, dug the tunnels with the aim of launching attacks into Israel
BEIRUT: Lebanese President Michel Aoun said on Tuesday he saw no risk to peace from an operation by Israel’s military to disable cross-border tunnels it says were dug into its territory by Hezbollah guerrillas.
Israel says Hezbollah, Lebanon’s most powerful armed group, dug the tunnels with the aim of launching attacks into Israel with backing from its regional sponsor Iran. Hezbollah has yet to comment.
“We certainly took this issue seriously — the presence of tunnels at the border — and Israel informed us via the United States that it does not have aggressive intentions and it will continue to work on its (territory),” Aoun told a news conference.
“We also do not have aggressive intentions... We are ready to remove the causes of the dispute, but after we obtain a final report and we set out the matters that need to be dealt with.”
During a televised visit to the border, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was “methodically dismantling the tunnel weapon,” and warned Hezbollah not to re-establish the front.
“If Hezbollah makes the big mistake of deciding in any way to strike at us or resist the (anti-tunnel) action we have undertaken, it will get hit with blows that it cannot even imagine.”
The UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, last week confirmed the presence of one tunnel near the Israeli town of Metulla. The force’s head, Major General Stefano Del Col, said on Tuesday that a second one had been found while Israel’s military said it had discovered a third.
Del Col, in a statement issued after meeting Aoun, said the matter was “serious.” UNIFIL was making “every effort to maintain clear and credible channels of communication with both sides so that there is no room for misunderstanding.”
Israel has said it is up to UNIFIL to deal with the tunnels on the Lebanese side of the border, and its military said it held the Beirut government responsible for “another blatant breach” of a UN resolution that ended a 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel.
Aoun, a political ally of Hezbollah, said in a separate statement that Lebanon was committed to implementing that resolution.
Israel and Hezbollah have avoided major conflict across the Lebanese-Israeli border since 2006, though Israel has mounted attacks in Syria targeting what it said were advanced weapon deliveries to the group.