Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Polygamy and the hidden wives of Turkey

Nick Read:

The villages of south-east Anatolia, in the corner of Turkey that borders Iraq and Syria, are bleak, hauntingly beautiful places that do not give up their secrets lightly.

It is part of what Kurds claim as their homeland, where years of violent struggle between Kurdish separatists and the Turkish government have left more than 30,000 killed.

The government outlawed the practice of polygamy nearly a century ago. But Islamic custom can allow men to take up to four wives.

In this devoutly Muslim region, it is estimated that nearly a quarter of all marriages are polygamous.

Men like 32-year-old Resat Yagdi regard it as their birthright. He is a part-time electrician and onion farmer, with a beautiful wife and three children, one just a week old.

But despite these blessings, he is determined to take a second wife to enhance his prosperity and prestige in the village.

He has chosen a girl who lives virtually next door - Ayse Aymaz - who is eight years his junior.

But while preparing to marry Ayse, he soon learned that love comes at a price.

To win Ayse's hand, first Resat must build her a new home, and pay her parents a substantial bride price. By the time he marries, he will be £18,000 out of pocket.

But after what Resat considered to be an unhappy first marriage, it is a price worth paying. He says: "Ayse is so feminine. She is everything I've ever dreamt of. She's my perfect type."

For Resat's 22-year-old sister, Melihat, the clock is ticking.

Her marriage will soon be arranged by her father, who has three wives himself, and her price negotiated with the groom's family.

Melihat knows she is regarded purely as an economic asset: "They sell girls like animals; we're not treated as human beings."

Some are sold into marriage as young as 12 years old. Girls who run away are simply killed, in what are euphemistically called "honour" killings.

Polygamy in Turkey: Slow Evolutionary Change

Kurdish hinterland hopes to add spice to Europe


At 10:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the country that will begin EU accession talks in October.

At 11:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And I am sure that Turkey will add a great deal of "cultural diversity" to the EU if the Eurocrats are foolish enough to allow them to join.


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