Friday, July 29, 2016


Tajik Mullahs Warn Of New Threat In Temporary Marriages

It is estimated that hundreds of Tajik women have entered into legally dubious temporary marriages with foreigners. (file photo)
It is estimated that hundreds of Tajik women have entered into legally dubious temporary marriages with foreigners. (file photo)
By Farangis Najibullah and Kayumars Ato
Mosque sermons in Tajikistan tend to focus on issues that affect people's everyday lives.

These days, the hot-button topic of many sermons in Dushanbe has been temporary marriages -- a phenomenon that was almost unheard of in Tajik society until recently.

Recently, at a gathering following Friday Prayers on June 8, prominent Dushanbe Imam Eshon Abdul-Basir Saidov warned women against entering into temporary marriages, which religious leaders say have become a trend in Dushanbe over the past two or three years.

Echoing concerns voiced by his fellow imams, Saidov says dozens of Tajik women have fallen victim to "Iranian-style temporary marriage," known as mut'a.

Fairly widespread, and legally approved in predominantly Shia Iran, mut'a is a fixed-term marriage in Shi'a Islam which automatically dissolves upon the completion of a term agreed upon by both parties prior to the marriage.

Mut'a is not recognized by Sunni Islam, which is followed by the majority of Tajik Muslims.

Nevertheless, says Zurafo Rahmoni, the head of the Culture Department of Tajikistan's Islamic Revival Party, "nowadays we increasingly hear about Tajik women entering into mut'a matrimony with Iranian citizens living here."

'No Rights Or Protection'

Tajikistan has a sizeable Iranian community, the majority of which reside in Dushanbe and other major cities.

"These women are ultimately being left with no rights or protection both during and after their so-called marriages," Rahmoni says. "In all cases, the men eventually leave the country, leaving their temporary wives behind. The most painful part is that sometimes children are born into such unions."

Rahmoni blames the trend on the "dire" economic situation that prevails in Tajikistan.

"Many Tajik men have left the country for migrant work," he says. "There are foreign men coming to work in Tajikistan, and that's why the [mut'a] practice is on the rise in Tajikistan. Social and economic hardship are contributing factor to the rise of this phenomenon in recent years."

There are no official statistics about Tajik women who enter mut'a unions, but Rahmoni puts the number at "hundreds."

When contacted by RFE/RL's Tajik Service, however, the Iranian Embassy in Dushanbe said it had never received any complaints from Tajik citizens in connection with such unions involving Iranian nationals.

'Legalized Prostitution'

Tajik imams have dubbed mut'a "un-Islamic" and "contradictory to Tajik religious beliefs and traditions."

"Mut'a is an attempt to legalize prostitution," says Imam Saidov. "It shouldn't be recognized as a religious matrimony, and we consider it a sin."

In his Friday sermon, religious leader Saidov said Tajik women's "naivety and lack of awareness of their religious and civil rights" was to blame for their falling victim to temporary marriages.

For Maya, a 25-year-old hairdresser from Dushanbe, her temporary marriage was initially "love at first sight" with a man from a foreign culture.

Maya, who declined to give her full name, said she met her former partner -- an Iranian businessman -- a year ago in a city restaurant popular with well-to-do foreigners.

A marriage proposal came "surprisingly swiftly," and Maya accepted. She says the religious marriage ceremony was conducted by a friend of the groom, with two others attending as witnesses.

"He mentioned something about short-term marriages, but I didn't quite understand it, I thought he was just being cautious," Maya admits. "But he left six months later. I live with my baby daughter. I don't get any support from him, financial or moral."

To prevent such cases, Tajik imams are calling on women not to enter into religious matrimony with foreigners -- namely followers of Shi'a Islam -- without officially registering their marriages with the secular authorities and even signing legal, prenuptial contracts protecting women's rights in marriage and/or divorce.

Tajik laws do not recognize religious marriages -- temporary or otherwise. As a measure aimed at curbing polygamy, Tajikistan has banned mullahs from performing Islamic marriages, or "nikah," unless the couple presents their official marriage certificate.

Polygamy is a criminal offense in Tajikistan which carries a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment.

Written and reported by Farangis Najibullah, with additional reporting by RFE/RL Tajik Service correspondent Kayumars Ato in Dushanbe
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Comment Sorting
by: aliG from: bermuda
June 19, 2012 02:50
..."registering with secular authorities"?? - think "government" sounds better.

Also, mullahs are not essential to performing people who know the rituals can do it...

They should just decriminalize polygamy...feel bad for the president and his posse...

by: Tahmina from: Vilnius
June 20, 2012 17:31
“Temporary marriage” (referred to as “seegheh” in Iran), is, indeed a form of quasi- prostitution. In Tajikistan, it is illegal, just as polygamy is, but likely there are only a handful of men ever charged and imprisoned for the crime of polygamy, given the fact that the practice is prevalent among the elite. Thus, though the Iranian businessmen in Dushanbe are taking advantage of local women by luring them into temporary marriages, Tajikistan, itself, is equally, if not more, to blame.

There are over one million Tajik men in Russia. Many marry the girl next door in arranged marriages when in Tajikistan, then take off for work abroad. After a few months or years, many divorce their Tajik wife over the phone as they may have found a Russian woman who fits their lifestyle and legal predicament better. As a result, the young Tajik (ex)wife is literally thrown out of her home by her in-laws and is treated not unlike someone with leprosy by society as a whole, including her own parents and siblings. She is thus left to her own devices. She may either become a second or third wife to a Tajik official or businessman, i.e. a mistress, or seek the foreign men in Tajikistan for the same. She may also become a victim of human trafficking, languishing in a brothel in Dubai (or Dushanbe), making some money, but also being inflicted with sexually transmitted diseases. Her working days, and possibly her life-span, will be short.

What can be done about the problem?

1. The government must, starting with President Rahmon, talk about this scourge openly. Girls must not be looked upon as mere baby-producing organisms. Boys and girls must be treated equally, schooled until the age of 18 and forbidden to be wed prior, with hefty fines and prosecution for violating households.

2. There is so much propaganda in Tajikistan on the horrors of “human trafficking”, a problem which is overblown as compared to what occurs locally. The Europeans and the Americans (who presume trafficking is big in Central Asia, with little data to support it) dole out millions of euros/dollars to government organs and NGOs to combat the problem. In reality, however, the horrors of exploitation are far more at one’s village and home. That is, married women in Tajikistan and those whose husbands are abroad face daily humiliation, violence and exploitation. The best way to combat this is economic empowerment of girls and women: Promotion of good schooling and proper skills that would allow females to stand on their own feet, whether married or not, so that they would not become victims to violent Tajik men and exploitative foreign males.

3. If migration has been the solution for many young men, who are earning good salaries in Russia, why can the same not be done for Tajik females? If a female is taught good communicative Russian, knows skills that she can market – and they don’t have to be stereotypical female skills, such as cooking or sewing, but: construction work, welding, gourmet chef, taxi/truck driving, retailing, etc. and if her travel and work papers are in order, there is no reason for the woman (or man) to be exploited when abroad.

4. Tajik families and females should not be prejudiced when seeking a husband for daughters. If he is single, honest and respects her (and vice versa), it should not matter if he is Tajik or Iranian. Why not consider matches with millions of Hanafi Muslims to the east (Uighurs, since in China, as opposed to Tajikistan, the male population is higher than females) or why not marry a descent non-Muslim man?

5. Back to the government and civil society: If you would like to prevent exploitation of females, start by setting examples for them. Ensure that half of the government ministers and ambassadors of Tajikistan are females. Women also need to stand together and defend their own rights. Why not, for example, organize the “Women’s Party of Tajikistan” just in time for the 2013 presidential elections?

by: nnn from: malaysia
June 24, 2012 03:40
Tajikistan can not be called a Muslim country as it criminalizes having more than one wife. It is a secular country with a usual dual standard secular govt which is part of this whole problem.

If you apply Islam properly you wont have any of these problems. The men should treat the women properly and protect them. Get rid of the secular govt and apply Islam properly.

Muslim women are not allowed to take non-Muslim men as husbands, period. If a non-Muslim man is really descent, then he will accept Allah and his messenger. Then you can marry him.

It is a shame Tajik men are not men, letting the women get into this situation. If you need real men there are many proper Muslim men around the world and also in Tajikistan if you look in the proper places. Let us know. Assalamualaikum.

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