Alaa al-Marjani/AP
An Iraqi couple reads the Quran on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan in the Imam
Ali shrine in Najaf.

Tug of War: Iraq’s Divorce Rate Up Since Invasion Began

August 01, 2008 07:00 AM
by Shannon Firth
Sectarian violence, displacement and finance troubles mean more Iraqi marriages are ending in divorce since the U.S.-led invasion.

30-Second Summary

The divorce rate in Iraq has doubled since the U.S.-led invasion began in 2003, and quadrupled in Baghdad, the Los Angeles Times reports. Sectarian violence has caused the dissolution of many marriages; in other cases financial concerns and displacement are to blame.

Mixed couples like Ekhlas Mohammad Ali, a Shiite, and her husband, a Sunni, received death threats because of their marriage. Unable to afford to move to a safer neighborhood in Baghdad, they separated and returned to the homes of their respective parents. Ali says she will wait for her husband.

IRIN news service describes the Sunni–Shiite rift: “Following the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, sectarian divides began to emerge as the majority Shi’ite population, which had been heavily discriminated against under Hussein’s government, began to re-assert itself as the dominant political power.”

Juma al-Rubai’ee, a women’s rights activist, explained to NPR how finances also contribute to divorce in Iraq, because “If a man has a low salary, he would divorce his wife to marry another woman with a better salary—even if the other woman … is older than him.”

Divorces are increasing despite strong cultural opposition in Iraq.

A 2006 Washington Post article reports Baghdad Family Court Judge Salim al-Moussawi labeled divorce “the most despicable ‘hallal,’” meaning the worst thing permissible under Islam.

Divorce rates among American military couples, however, have increased only gradually, starting in 2001, according to a Rand Corporation study released in 2007.

Headline Links: War takes toll on Iraqi marriages

Audio: Love and war

Opinion & Analysis: The changing face of marriage and divorce in Iraq

Related Topics: Divorce rates among U.S. military couples


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