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Yazidis Face Marriage Crisis

Qassim Khidhir Hamad
Due to increasing demands for larger dowries, unemployment and housing problems significant numbers of Yazidi youths are struggling to get married in the Kurdistan Region today, raising fears of social unrest among…
21.08.2009  |  Erbil

It has been reported that some Yazidi families are now demanding a dowry of between ten and thirty thousand US dollars to allow their daughter to marry a fellow Yazidi.

But now, in an attempt to rectify the problem, the Spirit Council (the Yazidi supreme religious council) has announced a new religious decree stating that families cannot demand dowries higher than two thousand dollars.

"It’s a very big social problem among the Yazidis, its left a huge number of our boys and girls unable to get married," said Khalid Bozani, a writer and head of Yazidi religion affairs at the Ministry of Religious Affairs of the Kurdistan Region Government.

Yazidis are primarily ethnic Kurds mostly living near Nineveh and Duhok, with smaller communities in Armenia, Georgia, Iran, Russia, Syria, and Turkey. Yazidis worship seven angels, in the form of peacocks, which are subordinate to the supreme god who created the universe.

Much of the community is poor, working in construction and hospitality, and they have been specifically targeted in recent years as some Muslim fundamentalists accuse them of religious deviance.

Bozani who is also as an advisor to the Spirit Council told Niqash that the phenomenon of high dowries began as Yazidi men who had moved to Europe began coming back flaunting their money in search of a bride.

“They comeback with a lot of cash and just as a show off,” he noted. “They offer a lot of money when they ask for a girl's hand.”

In addition to offering larger sums than locals, these men offer women an appealing opportunity to move to Europe which makes it even harder for those living in the region to find a bride.

"After we conducted research we found out that very few Yazidis who are living inside Iraq are getting married due to the high dowries," said Bozani.

However, recently, a group of young Yazidis demanded that the Spirit Council resolve the crisis and the Council has now responded with the new regulation limiting the potential size of dowries.

According to Karwan Shangali, a 25 year old Yazidi who is single and works in a fish restaurant in Erbil, the decision will help young Yazidis to get married.

But some doubt that all Yazidi families will obey the decision.

S'hood Mesto Najm, head of the Lalsh Centre for Yazidi culture in Sheikhan district, told Niqash that he thinks many Yazidis families will simply ignore the ruling. Najm says the Spirit Council doesn't have any punishment for those who do not follow the religious decision and cannot therefore enforce the ruling.

At a time of economic difficulty it is also likely that many families see a large dowry as a means of escaping hard financial situations.

That being said, Najm did acknowledge that the legitimacy and respect with which the Spirit Council is held among the Yazidi population will compel many to follow its decree.

Najm also warned that it would be wrong to blame the falling marriage numbers on the size of dowries alone. "Lack of job opportunities and housing problems in the Yazidi areas are other main reasons that lead many Yazidis to remain single and head to Europe," he said.