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 Norway : Forced marriages increase among Kurdish Community

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Number of posts : 21
Age : 46
Localisation : Lille
Organisation : Solidarité Irak
Registration date : 2006-08-20

PostSubject: Norway : Forced marriages increase among Kurdish Community   Tue Aug 22, 2006 3:54 am

Forced marriage means to force a person to marry against her/his will. This phenomenon is now increasing in Norway, especially among Kurdish community. According to a formal state statistics and the organizations working on that issue, like Red Cross in Oslo and the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration, the Kurdish community comes at the second level after the Pakistanis’.

What are the reasons behind the rise of this phenomenon among the Kurdish community? We need to look at that issue from different angles. First, an introductory necessitates.

After the first gulf war in 1991 and imposing the economic sanctions against Iraqi people, seeking asylum in Europe has been increased among the Iraqi people the Kurds as well. Most of those who came abroad were families having young children. Simultaneously, single men came and soon after gaining their asylum, they married girls from their own countries and brought them abroad. Now many of their children (especially the females) are teenagers. Some of those families think that their daughters would never be allowed to defy their ‘own culture’ and cannot enjoy the same rights as their Norwegian friends. The families force them, intimidate them, exert pressure, both physically and emotionally, on them and forcibly marry them off. They either bring the bridegroom from Kurdistan or find him among the Kurdish groups here.

I would like to illustrate the factors which make this phenomenon increase in such a way as follows:

1. Views on honour and ‘honour preserving’:

According to this view, woman or female figure is responsible of family’s honour. Sexual organs of woman, and more specifically hymen, have a big role in honour issue and it forms the essence of treating women. Thus, the families exert their pressure on their female members. As I mentioned above, many of the Kurdish families have been living here in Norway for 15 years and their children have grown up and become teenagers. The daily concern of the families is to prevent their children not to behave like Norwegian girls at their age who form their relationships freely that would result in sexual intercourses― a deed that would bring shame to their honour. That is why, they start to exert their pressure on their daughters exactly from their fifteenth age. Some of the girls are married off secretly and this is legitimized by a Mullah, without the Norwegian authorities know it. Some others will be returned to their home countries and will be married off there. The families hide the travel documents from their daughters and prevent them from coming back to Norway.

2. Culture and social traditions:

Another point is that the families and individuals in the Middle-east countries are victims of some reactionary patriarchal and male oriented traditions and cultures. In those countries, the political and social system, supported by religion, caused backwardness and patriarchal thoughts spread vastly. A male figure has full and very enormous authority. Man is the ‘owner’ of the wife and the children- who are like commodities. He controls economy and thus he decides about the future of the children. Woman in such a system is weak and without authority and she is not independent.

These standpoints have come to Norway by these families, while Norway is a place where the laws are based on equality. There will be a clash between these two different cultures and traditions. An ‘oriental’ man brings the same patriarchal viewpoints and lives under the ‘umbrella’ of an egalitarian law. This has been a contradictory to them. He either would lose his authority, and power and live as a European man or he has to fight for preserving his power. But, the whole life here and the education system move against his viewpoints and wishes. His children daily relate with Norwegian students in this system; they integrate; they learn the language and get friends here. An ‘oriental’ man can easily accept such a life for his male children but can never endure that about the female ones. Furthermore, the fathers would give the same authority to his sons. The Norwegian and even Kurdish mass media have published a case about convicting a father and a brother who obliged and threatened the seventeen-years-old daughter to marry according to their will. They brought her to Iraqi Kurdistan and married her off. After a period, the girl came back to Norway and confessed the problem to Child Care Department. The police arrested the family and sentenced them for two years. The case is known as ‘Drammen Case’.

3. Not integrating and multiculturalism:

Multiculturalism is a widely active policy in the European countries which is based on dividing people by their different cultures and traditional background. This policy is daily used by the state foundations, organisations and the mass media and thus will become a current culture of people dealing with other people form other countries. ‘My culture’ and ‘your culture’ has become an obstacle which hinders integration. Those people who ran from countries like Iraq, Iran, Turkey…etc. were victims of a backward culture, lack of rights, despotism of political Islam, sex apartheid, and patriarchy. They have come to these countries to get a free refuge and life. But, in these countries, and according to this formal policy, their lives are framed by the same former backward cultures out of their will.

This policy helps the process of bullying a refugee individual to the same culture which is fully reactionary, patriarchal and against women. The families exert their pressure on their male and female children. The youth will be living in ‘duality’; on the one side, a free open society and a closed muffled one on the other hand. The effect of this pressure on the female ones, whose families want to force them to marry, emerges soon. Some of them are obliged to accept the pressure and fearing physical and psychological torture (we have examples of that), they accept to be married off to persons whom they do not love. In some cases the bridegrooms are brought from the original country whose culture and education is totally different. That will create an immense misunderstanding between them. Some girls will be psychologically sick and even may try to commit suicide.

This problem is so immense in Norway that the new government wants to enact a law about the age of marriage increasing it to 22-23 years old. This is not decided yet.

This essay is a simple attempt of mine to introduce the problem which is so serious and threatens the future of many young girls in Norway and Europe. It is a threat which is carried out secretly. I work with a humanitarian organisation in Norway which is concerned with forced marriage. That is why, I see the problem bigger than I have written about it in this essay. I hope that there will be a wide and modern debate about the issue and how we can step towards a more humane culture.

Bahar Munzir
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