National and international praise has wafted towards Baghdad since the Iraqi government eased the pressure of former tensions by offering a $2000 incentive to mixed Sunni and Shiite couples who marry. Even President Obama gave Iraq’s new Sunni-Shiia Marriage Law the thumbs up!
The Iraqi government pays all news brides and grooms; but the amount now being given to mixed-sect couples is almost double that of the others.
To apply for the money, mixed couples write to Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi’s office with legal proof of their union. If successful, their bonus is handed to them in an envelope as part of a mass wedding celebration.
A Policy of Peace
The new legislation seems to be a roaring success. In August 2009, 1700 Sunni-Shiite newlyweds were celebrating their newfound freedom to express their love. (And enjoying a little extra cash to spend on their honeymoons.)
Since the law was passed, the government has held 15 mass weddings for inter-sect couples from all over Iraq. Bizarrely enough, one took place in July of this year at a club in western Baghdad once used by Saddam Hussein’s army.
Mixed Marriages Are Making a Comeback
Just a few years ago, Sunni-Shiite intermarriage was well and truly off limits. The war and the bombing of a major Shiite shrine in 2006 struck it firmly off the matrimonial menu.
Those two elements meant that even Sunni-Shiite couples that were already married had to separate. Today it’s a different story: love across the two major Islamic sects is blossoming again and the renaissance of mixed marriages seems a small but sure sign that that Iraqi society is gradually recovering.
Freedom to Live, Freedom to Love
In an article in MSNC.com, Shiite cleric Sayyid Ahmed Hirz al-Yasiri says Iraqis are freer to move around and meet each other these days:
“As security has improved, Iraqis are returning to their homes in mixed neighbourhoods and spending more time at offices, universities and other places where they meet their future spouses.” – He said.
Marriage A la Mode
According to the MSNBC article, marriage in general is experiencing a comeback in Iraq. Figures from Iraq’s Higher Judicial Council show that 274,014 couples were married in 2007, even when sectarian violence was at its height. That jumped to 357,593 last year when the situation calmed down.
In the first three months of 2009, 62,626 marriages were recorded across Iraq, excluding the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in the north.