‘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.


Will Turkey abide by provisions of Berlin Summit?

Updated 21 January 2020

Will Turkey abide by provisions of Berlin Summit?

  • Expert says sudden end to Ankara’s intervention in Libyan conflict unlikely

JEDDAH: With the conclusion of the Libya peace summit in Berlin on Sunday, it remains to be seen whether Turkey is willing to implement the provisions of the final communique and stay out of the conflict.

Ankara is accused of sending Syrian fighters to the Libyan battlefront in support of Fayez Al-Sarraj’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) against military commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces.

During the summit, French President Emmanuel Macron voiced concerns over the arrival of Syrian and other foreign fighters in Tripoli, saying: “That must end.” 

Samuel Ramani, a geopolitical analyst at Oxford University, speculates that Turkey will not deploy more troops.  

But he told Arab News that a sudden end to Ankara’s intervention in the Libyan conflict is unlikely for the moment as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country will remain present “until the GNA’s future is secured.”

Noting the difficulty of enforcing the Berlin agreement, Ramani said Turkey might not be the first mover in breaching a cease-fire in Libya.

But he added that Turkey will not hesitate to deploy forces and upend the agreement if Haftar makes any moves that it considers “provocative.”

The summit called for sanctions on those who violate the UN Security Council arms embargo on Libya.

Turkish opposition MPs recently criticized the expanded security pact between Ankara and the GNA, saying the dispatch of materials and equipment to Libya breaches the UN arms embargo.

Until we see what specific cease-fire monitoring and enforcement mechanisms will be implemented and by which foreign powers, we don’t know what arrangements, if any, have been agreed upon.

Micha’el Tanchum, Analyst

The summit does not seem to have resolved ongoing disputes regarding the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline, a planned natural gas pipeline connecting eastern Mediterranean energy resources to mainland Greece via Cyprus and Crete.

The Cypriot presidency accused Turkey of being a “pirate state,” citing Ankara’s recent drilling off its coasts just a day after Brussels warned Turkey that its plans were illegal.

Erdogan dismissed the warning and threatened to send to the EU some 4 million refugees that Turkey is hosting.

Turkey dispatched its Yavuz drillship to the south of Cyprus on Sunday, based on claims deriving from the maritime delimitation agreement with the GNA.

Turkey’s insistence on gas exploration in the region may be subject to sanctions as early as this week, when EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels on Monday.

Aydin Sezer, an Ankara-based political analyst, drew attention to Article 25 of the Berlin final communique, which underlined the “Libyan Political Agreement as a viable framework for the political solution in Libya,” and called for the “establishment of a functioning presidency council and the formation of a single, unified, inclusive and effective Libyan government approved by the House of Representatives.”

Sezer told Arab News: “Getting approval from Libya’s Haftar-allied House of Representatives would be a serious challenge for Ankara because Haftar recently considered all agreements with Turkey as a betrayal. This peace conference once more showed that Turkey should keep away from Libya.”

Many experts remain skeptical about the possible outcome of the summit. 

Micha’el Tanchum, a senior fellow at the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy, said: “Until we see what specific cease-fire monitoring and enforcement mechanisms will be implemented and by which foreign powers, we don’t know what arrangements, if any, have been agreed upon.”