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.


UN envoy due in Yemen as strains escalate with Houthi missile launch

Updated 25 June 2018
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UN envoy due in Yemen as strains escalate with Houthi missile launch

RIYADH/ADEN: The Iran-aligned Houthi movement fired missiles at the Saudi capital Riyadh late on Sunday, escalating tensions ahead of a visit by the UN envoy to Yemen this week to try to avert a military assault on the country’s main port city.
A Houthi spokesman has threatened more attacks in response to the offensive launched by a Saudi-led coalition on June 12 to seize control of Hodeidah port, long a key target, in an attempt to weaken the Houthis by cutting their main supply line.
The United Nations fears that an assault on the Red Sea port, a lifeline for millions of Yemenis, could trigger a famine imperilling millions of lives.
UN envoy Martin Griffiths is due in the southern city of Aden on Wednesday for talks with ousted President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in the legitimate government’s temporary capital, government officials said.
One official said Griffiths would be there only for a few hours for talks focused on averting an assault on the port.
“There is a proposal on the table,” the foreign minister of Hadi’s government, Khaled Al-Yamani, told reporters in Riyadh.
“We would accept a peace initiative on the condition that militias leave the western coast,” he said at a joint press conference to announce a $40 million project launched by Saudi Arabia for de-mining operations in Yemen.
The Houthis have indicated they would be willing to hand over management of the port to the United Nations, sources told Reuters. A US official said Washington was urging the Saudis and Emiratis to accept the deal.
The coalition said on Monday that eight members of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group had been killed in battles in the mountainous Saada region in Yemen’s northwest, which is held by the Houthis along with the capital Sanaa.
Hezbollah officials could not be immediately reached for comment, but the group has previously denied Saudi accusations that it is helping Houthi rebels.
MISSILES OVER RIYADH
Saudi air defense forces intercepted two rockets over Riyadh late on Sunday, sending debris measuring up to several meters hurtling toward residential areas.
Pieces fell near the US mission in the Saudi capital and at a school in the diplomatic quarter. Debris sparked a fire at a construction site 10 km (six miles) further south and fell on the roof of a private residence, but Saudi officials said there were no casualties.
“Our rockets will reach places that the enemy will not expect,” Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam said. “The longer the aggression and war continue, the greater our ballistic missile capabilities.”
Coalition spokesman Turki Al-Malki said the alliance’s advances on Hodeidah and other fronts were pushing the Houthis to try to project strength through such attacks.
Coalition-backed forces seized Hodeidah airport last week and have been consolidating their hold in the area as more Houthi fighters, many armed with Ak-47 assault rifles, were deployed in the city and around the port.
The United Nations fears heavy fighting will worsen what is already the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis, with 22 million Yemenis dependent on aid and an estimated 8.4 million believed to be on the verge of starvation.
The Arab states say they must recapture Hodeidah to deprive the Houthis of their main source of income and prevent them from smuggling in Iranian-made missiles, accusations denied by the group and Tehran.
The coalition has pledged a swift military operation to take over the airport and seaport without entering the city center, to minimize civilian casualties and maintain the flow of goods.