Marriage a distant dream for many in Iraq’s Mosul

Evening wear and wedding dresses are displayed in a showroom in Mosul. Iraq’s second city is a bastion of traditionalism and conservatism, but suitors are finding it increasingly hard to save enough cash to fund a dowry and a wedding. (AFP)
Updated 18 May 2018
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Marriage a distant dream for many in Iraq’s Mosul

  • Before the Daesh group made Mosul its self-proclaimed capital in mid-2014, Iraq’s second city was a bastion of traditionalism and conservatism. It was rare for women to hit their 20s before marrying or being engaged.
  • Reconstruction is under way, but with 21,500 homes destroyed or badly damaged, the task is overwhelming, Iraqi authorities say. And the wait for young people to seal their nuptials is getting longer and longer.

MOSUL, Iraq: Khulud yearns to be swept away by a “prince charming,” but like many young Iraqis in the former jihadist stronghold of Mosul she worries she may never marry.
“I haven’t found a husband or a job — my life consists of household chores,” says the 24-year-old university graduate, who feels increasingly trapped in her parents’ home.
“My older sister, who is 37, already has four children... I still perhaps have a chance to find a husband, but my 29-year-old sister has much less” hope, Khulud adds, a sad smile marking the corners of her mouth.
Before the Daesh group made Mosul its self-proclaimed capital in mid-2014, Iraq’s second city was a bastion of traditionalism and conservatism. It was rare for women to hit their 20s before marrying or being engaged.
Back in government hands since July last year, the city is still scarred by nine months of brutal combat.
Reconstruction is under way, but with 21,500 homes destroyed or badly damaged, the task is overwhelming, Iraqi authorities say.
And the wait for young people to seal their nuptials is getting longer and longer. Suitors are finding it increasingly hard to save enough cash to fund a dowry and a wedding, never mind set up home with a spouse.
Mumen Abdallah also dreams of marriage.
“I have a degree in economics, but this hasn’t helped me realize my dream,” says the 38-year-old, one of a crowd of men lounging on a cafe terrace.
He still hasn’t left the family home and the little cash he earns as a taxi driver is barely enough to help with the rent, in a cramped household of seven.
Manaf Khaled, a 32-year-old social worker, says a woman’s marriage prospects can depend on her employment.
“Many men prefer to marry a woman who works and contributes to household expenses,” she says.
Some couples are even relying on charity. At a function room in Mosul, hundreds of people — the guests from 10 wedding parties — tuck into a communal meal.
Mohammed Sami, a 27-year-old blacksmith who is among the grooms, says he is just happy to be here, despite not being able to afford a suit for himself or a wedding dress for his wife.
During the three years Daesh was in control of Mosul, the city was cut off from the central government in Baghdad.
Under the occupation, public sector workers went without wages. Some are still waiting to rejoin the payroll, as the security services carry out investigations in the former Daesh fiefdom.
“Unemployment and the long interruption to salaries has prevented very many young people who want to start a family from marrying,” Ashraf Ismail, who works in women’s protection, says.
In a bid to unblock the bottleneck, lawmaker Jamila Al-Obeidi has been pushing a novel proposal in Iraq’s parliament.
She wants the government “to provide five million dinars ($4,000, 3,300 euros) to every man wishing to marry, then a million dinars for each child born,” she says.
But there are strings attached. “The proposed wife must be older than the ‘normal’ marriage age, divorced, or a war widow,” she says.
While the initiative has gained the support of 70 lawmakers, it hasn’t been adopted by the government.
But if it ever became law, it might give 38-year-old Rim, who does not give her full name, a ray of hope.
“A husband may never come for me,” she says.
“When I was young, I refused many suitors so as to finish my studies and wait for the arrival of my prince charming, but now the chances of meeting him are slim,” she laments.


Chip Wickham ushers in winds of change on the jazz scene

Updated 32 min 25 sec ago
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Chip Wickham ushers in winds of change on the jazz scene

PARIS: The hotly hyped “British jazz invasion” has been the toast of international scenesters for some months now, with breathy adjective-heavy sprawls penned on both sides of the Atlantic paying tribute to a fresh generation of musos who grew up not in the conservatoires but the clubs, channelling the grit and groove of grime into a distinctly hip, 21st century strain of freewheeling, DIY improvised music.

Now the Arab world has its own outpost in the form of Chip Wickham, a UK-born flautist, saxophonist and producer whose second album grew out of extended stints teaching in the GCC. “Shamal Wind” takes its name from the Gulf’s primal weather patterns, and there’s a distinctly meditative, Middle Eastern vibe to the title track, a slow-burning, moody vamp, peppered with percussive trills, with hints of Yusef Lateef to be found in Wickham’s wandering woodwind musings.

There’s rather less goatee-stroking to be found across the four further up-tempo cuts, which swap soul-searching for soul-jazz, soaked in the breezy bop of a vintage Blue Note release. Recorded over a hot summer in Madrid, a heady Latin pulse drives first single, “Barrio 71” — championed by the likes of Craig Charles — with Spanish multi-percussionist David el Indio steaming up a block party beat framing Wickham’s gutsy workout on baritone sax.

Having previously worked with electronic acts, including Nightmares on Wax and Jimpster, one imagines the dancefloor was a key stimulus behind Wickham’s rhythmically dense, but harmonically spare compositional approach. Phil Wilkinson’s sheer, thumped piano chords drive the relentless nod of second single “Snake Eyes,” Wickham’s raspy flute floating somewhere overhead, readymade to be skimmed off for the anticipated remix market.

In truth, Manchester-raised Wickham is both too thoughtful, and too thoughtless, to truly belong to the London-brewed jazz invasion — Shamal Wind yo-yos between meditative meandering and soulful strutting with a wilful disrespect for trend.