Iraqi Women Victimized by Tribal Marriage Customs

By Dlovan Barwari for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

She set her small body on fire after pouring several liters of kerosene over herself and lighting a match. This is how she ended her life after her father refused to allow her to marry her lover and insisted she marry someone she did not know.

Shahnaz, who was not yet 25 years old, died at a burn center in Nineveh in April 2010 after physicians failed to save her from the injuries that disfigured her entire body. She is now another number on the long list of tragic victims of forced marriages.

Kalnaz, Shahnaz’s younger sister, described the incident to Al-Monitor: “It was an ominous day, [but] we did not expect her to carry out this disastrous act.” She added, “Fire devoured my sister’s body while she screamed out against at all those who were unjust to her.”

The decision made by Layla, 27, was different. She acquiesced to a marriage that she was forced into by her family, to live a life that she described as a “silent death,” rather than a “scandalous death,” after her family refused to allow her to marry her university classmate.

Layla wiped away her tears as she said, “It’s possible that my father and brothers could have killed me to remove the stain on their honor, had they suspected that I was refusing to marry one of my cousins because of a relationship with my classmate, who they had not allowed me to marry.” She added, “I had no other option.”

The problem of forced marriage is not limited to Layla and Shahnaz. Thousands of women in all parts of Iraq share the same problem in the patriarchal and tribal society. The freedom of women, in general, is limited and their love lives, if discovered by the family, can create a pretext for her murder.

2 Responses to Iraqi Women Victimized by Tribal Marriage Customs

  1. Be Be September 14, 2013 at 11:51 pm #

    When women are not treated equally as men there is something wrong. How men treat women is a reflection on the quality of the character of men. If women are treated badly it is because men have a low regard for themselves and poor self-esteem. And the problem with society at large is because men do not see each other as brothers.