‘Child marriage’ bill stirs outrage in Iraq

Ammar Toama, who heads the Shiite parliamentary group Fadila, said the bill’s aim was to bring the law “in line with the beliefs” of practicing Muslims. (Reuters)
Updated 23 November 2017

‘Child marriage’ bill stirs outrage in Iraq

BAGDHAD: A proposal in Iraq’s parliament to scrap the minimum age for Muslim girls to marry has stirred outrage among critics who view it as a license “to rape children.”
Conservative Shiite deputies on October 31 proposed an amendment to a 1959 law that set the minimum age for marriage at 18.
The initial legislation, passed shortly after the fall of the Iraqi monarchy, transferred the right to decide on family affairs from religious authorities to the state and its judiciary.
But now the new bill looks to go back on that — and would authorize the marriage of any girl if it had the consent of the religious leaders from the Shiite or Sunni Muslim community to which her parents belong.
In effect, it makes “the opinion of the Shiite and Sunni ulema (scholars) obligatory for judges,” said a liberal independent MP, Faiq Al-Sheikh, a member of Iraq’s legal commission.
Historically, he recalled, Islam has allowed the marriage of pubescent girls from the age of nine, the same as Aisha when she is believed to have been married to the Prophet Muhammad.
Social media has been flooded with criticism of the parliamentary bill, ranging from outright indignation to black humor, with anger also rife on the streets.
“It’s a law worthy of the Islamic State (jihadist group) that provides legal cover to the rape of children,” Hadi Abbas, an army retiree in the southern city of Kut, said.
Ali Lefta, a 40-year-old teacher in the port city of Basra, said it amounted to “the murder of the innocence of children” and that the bill was “the latest in a string of stupid laws based on tribal and confessional modes of thinking.”
In defense of the bill sponsored by his party, Ammar Toama, who heads the Shiite parliamentary group Fadila, said it “makes no mention of age and stipulates only that she (bride) must be pubescent, capable of deciding, and have the accord of her tutor and a judge.”
Under the Iraqi constitution, citizens have to declare their religious affiliation on certain issues. Marriage and inheritance terms for Shiites differ from those for Sunnis.
Toama said the bill’s aim was to bring the law “in line with the beliefs” of practicing Muslims.
But foreign missions in Baghdad and the United Nations have been up in arms, warning against institutionalized discrimination against women and girls.
Many Iraqis like Safia Mohssen, a mother of three girls, also remain opposed and have taken to mocking the priorities of parliamentarians.
“We have war, crises, unemployment, and yet our parliament is busy with laws that violate children’s rights!” she fumed. “The Islamists want to take us back to the Middle Ages.”
Majeda Al-Tamimi, a woman legislator, said she was confident that many of her colleagues in parliament would oppose the bill.
But whether it passes or not, women like Umm Mohammed in the conservative rural province of Zi Qar, who wed at the age of 14, said marriage was a family affair.
“Only families know when their daughter has reached puberty and at what age she can marry,” said the 65-year-old Iraqi.


Pressure grows in US for firm response to Iran after Aramco attacks 

Updated 21 min 28 sec ago

Pressure grows in US for firm response to Iran after Aramco attacks 

  • Senator Lindsey Graham urges retaliatory strikes on Iranian oilfields if Tehran continues ‘provocations’
  • UN Secretary General urged for calm and called on both sides to ‘exercise restraint’

WASHINGTON: An American senator has called for Washington to consider an attack on Iranian oil facilities as pressure grows in the US for a firm response to the Saudi Aramco strikes.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran for the drone attacks on Saturday against the Abqaiq oil processing plant and the Khurais oil field. He also suggested that unlike previous drone and missile attacks on the Kingdom, this one may not have been launched from Yemen by the Iran-backed Houthis. Reports have said that the attack may have originated in Iraq where Iran also holds sway over a large number of powerful militias.

“It is now time for the US to put on the table an attack on Iranian oil refineries if they continue their provocations or increase nuclear enrichment,” Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator close to Donald Trump, said on Twitter.

“Iran will not stop their misbehavior until the consequences become more real, like attacking their refineries, which will break the regime’s back.”

Iran on Sunday denied it was behind the attack, but the Yemeni Houthi militia backed by Tehran, claimed they had launched them. 

The White House on Sunday did not rule out a potential meeting between President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, even after Washington accused Iran of being behind drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities.

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said the attacks “did not help” prospects for a meeting between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during the United Nations General Assembly this month but she left open the possibility it could happen.

"You're not helping your case much," by attacking Saudi Arabia, civilian areas and critical infrastructure that affects global energy markets.” Conway told the Fox News Sunday program.

The Trump administration's sanctions and “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran over its nuclear and ballistic missile program will continue whether or not the two leaders meet, she added.

The US ramped up pressure on Iran last year after trump withdrew from an international pact to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

Washington has reimposed a tough sanctions regime on Tehran, which it accuses of hiding behind the nuclear deal to advance its missiles program and aggressive foreign policy in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, condemnation of the attacks continued from around the world.

Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemned the attack and called upon all parties to exercise maximum restraint to prevent any escalation.

UK foreign minister Dominic Raab said the attack was a “reckless attempt to damage regional security and disrupt global oil supplies.”

The European Union warned of a “real threat to regional security” in the Middle East.

*With Reuters