Sectarianism and Marriage

[tweetmeme] The growing sectarian crisis in Iraq is a very troubling development.  The ruling to ban hundreds of candidates from the March elections – done under the auspices of de-Baathification – is a clear attempt by the Shi’a majority to intimidate and the Sunni and secular minorities and to consolidate power.  The decision is a tough blow for the fledging Iraqi democracy.  Furthermore, the growing sectarian divide is creating social issues in a country where there are more women than men.  The gender imbalance – created by the wars with Iran in the 1980’s and the American invasion – along with high unemployment (upwards of 18%) has forced many unmarried women to stay home, limiting the chances to meet men of the same sect.  The growing sectarianism further decreases many women’s chances of marriage – no small issue in Iraqi society.  From Al Arabiya:

Zina Nabil, a pretty 28-year-old Sunni Arab, thought she had found her man. But like many other Iraqi women, she was forced to abandon her marriage plans three years ago because of sectarian hostilities.

“I fell in love with a very nice, well-educated man. But my parents rejected him when they learnt that he was a Shiite.”

Nabil was then 25, an age that is considered old for a woman in Iraq to be getting married, and she thinks her chance of happiness has passed.

“Since then I’ve just stopped thinking about marriage, to avoid finding myself in the same situation,” she sighed forlornly.

High Unemployment Rate

The issue of sectarianism in Iraq has turned the search for a spouse, already problematic for other social and financial reasons, into a quest for the Holy Grail.

In Iraq’s conservative society, the only opportunity for a single woman to meet someone is often through her job, if she has one. But unemployment is high — 18 percent, according to the United Nations, and much worse among young people — confining more unmarried women to their homes.

“I’m not going to meet people at home,” lamented 24-year-old Rula Mohammad, a Sunni who graduated in political science but remains jobless.

“My marriage prospects are made worse by the country’s sectarian problems. My parents would not allow me to marry someone from a different religious group.”

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