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Last updated: January 2021

COI summary

[Targeting, 3.5.2, 3.5.6; Actors of protection, 6.6; COI query on Yazidis]

In general, people in Iraq have little opportunity to make their own choices with regard to marriage. Refusing to marry a man chosen by the family is one of the reasons why honour crimes are perpetrated. Early marriage is another concern in Iraq. The legal marriage age is 15 with parental permission, and 18 without. The number of girls that are married at the age of 15 or below is around 10 % in areas outside KRI.

There is also a growing trend of marrying younger women as a measure of family security. There are reports that displaced families sometimes sell their children to other families in order to secure them a better future. Among IDPs and refugees, forced and child marriages are practiced as a way to reduce the family’s economic hardship. There are also reports of cases where girls are forced into a ‘temporary marriage’, practiced as an instrument to facilitate prostitution.

The traditional practice of ‘fasliya’, whereby family members, including women and children, are traded to settle tribal disputes, remained a problem, particularly in southern governorates. Fasliya marriages, or exchange marriages for compensation, have reportedly grown in recent years due to weak rule of law. In 2015 for example, one tribal dispute was resolved by giving away 50 women in compensation.

In general, women in the KRI cannot choose whom to marry and usually will have to agree to marry a man chosen by their family. Especially in rural areas, forced and early marriages continue to take place in the KRI in large numbers.

In some cases, forced marriages consist of a ‘trade’ in which two brothers marry two sisters or an exchange marriage where a female is married in exchange of a bride for a male in her family. The practice finds sanction in tribal traditions, such as the tradition of ‘jin be jin’ (a woman for a woman), in which brides are exchanged between tribes in order to avoid the payment of dowries. The tradition of forced marriage as a method of resolving tribal disputes is also practiced.

In some cases, forced marriages result in the woman committing suicide.

Risk analysis

Forced and child marriage amount to persecution.

Not all women and girls would face the level of risk required to establish a well-founded fear of persecution in relation to forced and child marriage. The individual assessment of whether or not there is a reasonable degree of likelihood for the applicant to face persecution should take into account risk-impacting circumstances, such as: young age, area of origin (particularly affecting rural areas), perception of traditional gender roles in the family, poor socio-economic situation of the family, living in IDP situation, etc.

Nexus to a reason for persecution

Available information indicates that persecution of this profile may be for reasons of membership of a particular social group. For example, refusal to enter into forced or child marriage may result in honour-based violence for reasons of membership of a particular social group in relation to a common background which cannot be changed (refusal to marry) and/or a characteristic or belief that is so fundamental to identity or conscience that a person should not be forced to renounce it (the right to choose whom to marry) and the distinct identity of such women and girls in Iraq (in relation to stigmatisation by society and/or being considered as violating the honour of the family).