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.


Unmapped roads raise risk to Southeast Asian rainforests — study

An aerial photo of a road running through an palm plantation in Dumai, Riau, Sumatra island, Indonesia. (Antara Foto/Rony Muharrman/via REUTERS/File)
Updated 27 May 2018
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Unmapped roads raise risk to Southeast Asian rainforests — study

  • Researcher Alice Hughes found that roads have penetrated areas previously considered untouched and unreachable by vehicles.
  • An average of 75 percent of roads in five countries were missing from OpenStreetMap (OSM), a mapping platform widely used by researchers and academics.

KUALA LUMPUR: Forests in parts of Southeast Asia face greater threats than previously thought because researchers often rely on data that ignores new roads, which are precursors to deforestation and development, a study shows.
The paper, published this month by the journal Biological Conservation, showed that an average of 75 percent of roads in five countries were missing from OpenStreetMap (OSM), a mapping platform widely used by researchers and academics.
“Large-scale forest clearance is preceded by the growth of road networks, which provide a stark warning for the region’s future,” the study said.
Author Alice Hughes, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, studied a total of 277,281 square kilometers by analyzing satellite images and maps showing forest loss and coverage, as well as agriculture concessions.
She found that roads have penetrated areas previously considered untouched and unreachable by vehicles.
“We are deluding ourselves that we still have large tracts of inaccessible, pristine forest, when the reality is highly-fragmented, very accessible forests,” Hughs said on Friday.
Her research examined road networks in parts of Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
“In some parts of the region, up to 99 percent of roads on those global maps, which are used as the basis for a huge amount of further analysis, are not included,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Deforestation and development of forests in the area studied have occurred at a rapid pace since 2000, said Hughes, while maps used by researchers do not regularly update their road data.
“Most of the time these roads are just providing access to forests and up to 99 percent of deforestation is within 2.5 km of road,” she said. “They are clearly the access method.”
She added that the region urgently needs better protection and enforcement for its remaining forests.
Indonesia, which is the world’s biggest palm oil producer, introduced a forest clearing moratorium in 2011 to help reduce deforestation.
Hughes said the ban should be expanded beyond just land designated as natural, untouched primary forest to include all high biodiversity forests.
Hughes’ research methodology should be used to determine whether the same patterns exist in other parts of the world, said Christopher Martius, team leader for climate change at the Indonesia-based Center for International Forestry Research.
“It is surprising that nobody ever did that before, and it is shocking that the result shows we grossly underestimated the possible threat to tropical forests from road building,” he said by email.