Exclusive report on child brides under the mullahs’ rule in Iran
NCRI Women’s Committee – November 2014
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Forced marriage is an oppressive tradition that came to light after the 1979 revolution in Iran and is justified under the name of religion, cultural beliefs, economic and political problems. This inhuman phenomenon, whose primarily victims are girls, is carried out in Iran with the complete backing of the clerical regime’s leaders due to their misogynist laws.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery has announced forced marriages a type of slavery.
In the legislative reform initiative published in 2007, UNICEF writes, “Most of all, the human rights perspective helps to frame child marriage as a crime against women and the girl child”. And adds, “Child marriage violates a panoply of interconnected rights, including, the right to equality on grounds of sex and age, the right to marry and found a family, the right to life, the right to the highest attainable standard of health, the right to education and development and the right to be free from slavery.”
In many cases, girls are actually sold to resolve the family’s financial problems and human trafficking networks, which are in contact with the regime, are actually profiting from the mullahs’ misogynist laws to traffic and sell Iranian girls.
Kamal Heidary, a senior mullah in Iran, said “Temporary marriages with [Muslim] women is allowed.
(State-run Khabar Farsi – July 6, 2015)
Chief of NAJA’s immigration and passport department, Sadeqi stated: “We cannot deny that Iranian girls are smuggled to different countries.” (Tasnim news agency 2 December 2013)
International obligations of the Islamic Republic of Iran
The Iranian regime is signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, Cultural Rights which both clearly state that “Marriage has to be carried out with the free consent of both sides of the marriage”.
According to article one of the Universal Treaty on Children’s Rights which is the most widely accepted human rights document in history, the term child is used to refer to a person who is under 18 years of age. The Iranian regime became a member of this treaty in 1993 and is committed to carry it out. The Iranian regime is also committed to “the Additional Convention on Slavery and Similar Procedures” which bans mandatory marriages.
Despite all these international obligations, the misogynist regime ruling Iran has always promoted the marriage of young girls under the pretext of carrying out religious regulations, hence facilitating rape, violence and psychological abuse against them, as well as depriving them of education. Ardebil Province’s governor revealed the mullahs’ reactionary beliefs about girls and said, “Today, a girl’s maturity age is equivalent to all the education she requires and getting a diploma is enough for her to get married. Girls must get their high school diplomas earlier than boys, in their ninth grade. They don’t need to learn things like physics or math, which is of no use for women.” He suggested that girls get their diplomas earlier so that they can get married sooner.
(State-run ‘Mardom Salari’ daily – November 10, 2014)
State-run Tabnak daily wrote, “Iran will not give in to the pressure imposed by the United Nations to prohibit marriages under the age of 18. There are other matters seen in the convention that are in contrast with Islamic standards.”
The statistics published by Iran’s registry shows that over 41,000 girls under the age of 15 were married last year, which amounts to 5.3% of all marriages. 30% of marriages involved women between the ages of 15 to 19.
(State-run Tabnak daily – December 4, 2014)
Iranian regime’s laws
In 1974, a law passed in Iran to promote the family, significantly raised the minimum age of marriage. It put the minimum age of marriage at 18 for girls, and 20 for boys. However, in 1982, three years after the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran and with the coming to power of the mullahs’ to Iran, the minimum age for marriage for girl’s was dropped from 18 to 9 and the civil law was amended to not prohibit the marriage of underage individuals.
Later, in 2002, the legal age of marriage for girls was raised to 13, although marrying children under 13 was permitted upon the request of the custodian and permission of the court. This means that now, a male legal custodian or a judge can legally wed an infant girl to a man.
The mullahs have facilitated the abuse of girls by not setting a punishment for failure to acquire the court’s permission.
Article 1041 – Amendment to the family promotion law– Annotation – Legal marriage before maturity is appropriate with the permission of the custodian, given that (the child’s) interests are observed. (Ratified Dec. 29, 1982)
Article 1041 – Legal marriage for girls under 13 and for boys under 15 is conditioned on the permission of the custodian, given that (the child’s) interests are observed, and upon the judgment of a competent court. (Ratification – Dec. 17, 2000)
In article 50 of the new family promotion law, in contrast to the regulations of Article 1041 of the civil law on marriage, punishments such as imprisonment, fines, flogging and etc. are written for the husband, the person who carries out the legal wedding procedures and the woman’s custodian. However, this law ensures that the male custodian or judge have full authority over the fate of innocent little girls.
In addition, according to the regime’s own laws, marriage is a contract, thus requiring under Article 211 of the civil law, that both sides be physically and mentally mature.
Khomeini’s position on child marriages
Khomeini, the founder of the Iranian regime, whose opinions have been the source for many laws after the 1979 anti-monarchic revolution in Iran, clearly writes that any kind of sexual relationship other than intercourse with the girl child is permissible at all ages.
“A man is not permitted to have intercourse with his wife if she is under the age of nine but any other act such as touching out of lust and hugging are permitted even if the wife is an infant,” he wrote in his book Tahrir al-Wasilah. (Tahrir al-Wasilah, Ruhollah Khomeini, Second Volume, Page 221)
Khamenei, the Iranian regime’s so-called Supreme Leader, decreased the age of marriage to 13 for girls and 15 for boys in one of his policies, in a bid to increase the population. On July 23, 2014 he told a gathering of college student that are in contact with the regime: “We should not allow the average age of marriage continue to rise, which unfortunately has increased especially amongst girls.”
On October 16, 2008, the head of the Iranian regime’s Prayer Staff, Qeraati said, “Having a spouse doesn’t need a license or diploma.”
“I believe girls should get married in high school,” he repeated on December 1, 2008.
(Youth Journalists Club – December 6, 2014)
Another cleric by the name of Behjat wrote in his personal blog in answer to a question, “According to Sharia law, the best age of marriage for girls is before puberty.” He also emphasized that the marriage of elderly men with young girls is permissible.
Also, the head of the so-called Supreme Leaders’ Representative in Universities in Lorestan province, Mehdi Mostajeran, said on 10 October, “The culture of late marriage is one of the calamities of the society.”
29,827 girls between the ages of 10-14 and 1,537 girls under the age of 10 were married in Iran only in 2012 according to reports published by the Registration Department.
In 2012: 4 babies were born from 10-year-old mothers;
17 babies were born from 11-year-old mothers;
50 babies were born from 12-year-old mothers;
275 babies were born from 13-year-old mothers;
1,289 babies were born from 14-year-old mothers;
4,377 babies were born from 15-year-old mothers;
In the past few years, the figures on child marriage have been devastating. The registered figures of child marriage under the age of 15 in Iran in 2006 until 2011 clearly show that the number of these marriages has increased from 33,383 in 2006 to 39,831 in 2011. This shows a 35% increase in the forced marriage of girls under the age of 15. This is while, the population of girls in this age group has decreased in this timespan.
These conditions have further deteriorated under Rouhani’s tenure.
The head of the Social Emergency Branch of the Welfare Organization said 360 girls under the age 14 were married in the past few years, of which 10 girls were under the age of 10!
However, these statistics are not completely reliable because many such marriages are never registered due to their illegal nature. In most cases the spouses of these girls are much older and even already married. This makes these marriages only aimed at providing sexual pleasure, making these cases clear examples of rape.
(State-run Salamat News – August 18, 2015)
The numbers recorded by the Registration Organization shows that from March 2014 to March 2015, a total of 40,404 girls under the age of 15 were wedded. These marriages were registered in the Census Center.
In that same period the number of marriages involving girls between the ages of 15 to 19 reached 214,086 cases. These numbers in the period of March 2013 to March 2014 were 129,780 cases. Therefore, there was a significant increase in this regard.
The age difference between the couple is yet another catastrophe that ruins the fate defenseless Iranian girls.
From March 2014 to March 2015, a total of 8,599 girls were married with men over 20 years older than them. Furthermore, a total of 54,711 women were married with men from 10 to 20 years older than them.
The result of such marriages is of course nothing but families falling apart. “Majid Abhari, a social vulnerability and behavioral science expert says, “The rising number of young widows and the widow age reaching 16.”
(State-run Khabar Farsi website – May 27, 2015)
Ms. Azar Ismaeeli, an advisor of women’s affairs says, “Around 16,000 single mothers are under the age of 20.”
(State-run Salamat News – June 20, 2015)
The number of divorces during the past year shows that the truth is actually much worse than what the regime’s own officials are admitting to. From March 2014 to March 2015, a total of 1,276 girls under the age of 15 had divorced. Two of these innocent girls were married off to men above the ages of 40.
Regarding girls 15 to 19 years of age, the Iran Census Center registered 8,510 divorce cases, of which 290 girls were freed from living with men between 40 to 50 years old, and 37 girls were relieved of living with men between the ages of 50 to 60. Moreover, 19 innocent girls who were wedded to men over the age of 60 during their teen years, divorced them”.
It is noteworthy that governmental figures only cover 24 provinces out of the 32 provinces in Iran and only refer to registered marriages. Official institutions in the provinces of Kermanshah, North Khorasan, Sistan and Baluchistan, Chahar Mahal and Bakhtiari, Kerman, Bushehr, Gilan and Kurdistan have not published any figures from their registered marriages to identify the age of marriage in these provinces.
It is also important to note that governmental bodies pay no attention to the legal age of marriage in Iran which is set at 13 for girls and publish their reports according to the age groups of under 10 and 10-14 years of age.
Despite this, marriages under the age of 10 are alarming.
In the province of Ardebil, 1,411 girls under the age of 10 were registered to have become child brides in 2011. In the statistics published by the Tehran Registration Department in the same year, 75 children under the age of 10 became child brides in the capital.
Farshid Yazdani, a social affairs official in the Iranian regime said, “There are concerning statistics related to under-age marriages between children. We have around 25,000 children between 10 to 14 years old that have divorced.”
(State-run IRNA news agency – June 22, 2015)
In the worst case, the state-run Fararo website reported on June 30, 2014 according to a sociology professor, 10 – 15 percent of prostitute girls between the ages of 10 – 14 have been forced into marriage. These girls approach prostitution due to social problems and pressures, physical and sexual deprivation.
Meanwhile, Shaheendokht Mollaverdi, Rouhani’s deputy in women and family affairs is worried about the publication of statistics about the marriage of young girls and has no complaints in principle about the violation of these innocent girls’ rights. The state-run ISNA news agency quoted her and wrote on 19 August 2015, “In 2013, some 31,000 marriages of girls under the age of 15 were documented. The judicial minister is to give an explanation about the way these marriages are recorded because their documenting is illegal.”
More bitter truths than the statistics
In a village a few kilometers from the city of Mashhad, the marriage of girls at the age of 12 and 13 has become very common. Girls’ pregnancy age in this village is 14 and 15, yet in some cases 10 year-old girls become mothers.
One of the village women who is 36 years old, yet has a much wrinkled face says: no one takes girls above the age of 15. They say a girl that goes to school isn’t a woman to live with. The men don’t like their wives to know more than them.
Another woman says: the women of this village become grandmothers at 36. We’re always busy with taking care of the kids. Our hair goes grey at the age of 14 and 15. Here they don’t ask the girl’s opinion for marriage. When the father accepts, everything is finalized.
My sister was 12 when she was given away for marriage. She said that she didn’t think about the fact that do she loved her husband or not, all she was happy about was that he brought a ring for her.
Families with boys take away young aged girls so that their bride is raised with the manners the husband’s family prefers. The marriage license states that the bride doesn’t have the right to divorce, work, go to school or have any claim over the house. All of the women believe that if one day they are forced to divorce, they have to give away their dowry because here, the men have the last word.
(Salamat News – February 26, 2015)
On May 19, 2013, the youth reporters club affiliated to the Revolutionary Guard’s Corps quoted an addicted woman as saying, “I was only 15-years-old when I was forced to marry my cousin. My father and step-mother beat and harassed me. My husband was nervous, impatient and jobless and was always looking for an excuse to hit me with a belt or beat me. Sometimes he hit me so much that he became tired! I had to pay for my children’s food and for the addiction of both my husband and I. When I found out that my husband wanted to send me for prostitution to pay for drugs, I took my kids to the streets and started begging. When my daughters grew up, I gave them away to the first man who proposed to them who were not much better than their father. I made them miserable just like myself.”
Razieh Ibrahimi is a prisoner convicted to death. She married at the age of 14 and is now convicted of murdering her husband at the age of 17. She accepted the charge and claimed that she committed the crime after years of violence and mistreatment from her husband. Despite being a juvenile at the time of the crime, she was taken to the gallows in June 2014. However, her sentence was suspended.
Farzaneh Moradi was a woman who was executed on March 4, 2014. When she was 15, she was forced by her father to marry one of her relatives. She had her first child at the age of 16 and in 2008, when she was 20-years-old, she was arrested and imprisoned for the murder of her husband. Her life finally ended on the gallows after 6 years prison. During her interrogation she said, “I did not know much about life then and without having any role in my marriage, I accepted. The birth of my daughter did not even bring us closer. I begin to love someone else and it was him who stabbed my husband to death. He said since I have a child, my father and mother-in-law would not ask for retribution. So I accepted the crime; but after, even though I told the guards that I was deceived, I could never prove my innocence.”
Now Farzaneh’s daughter and thousands of other young Iranian girls are trapped in the midst of a cruel and misogynist religious dictatorship in Iran. This heartbreaking cycle will continue and will only end when the clerical regime ruling Iran is toppled because such justified unfair laws never existed before the mullahs’ took over power in Iran.