Iraq News

ISIS wives seek separation from their husbands

By Khalid al-Taie

Displaced Iraqi women register for government assistance. [Photo courtesy of the Iraqi Ministry of Migration and Displacement]

Displaced Iraqi women register for government assistance. [Photo courtesy of the Iraqi Ministry of Migration and Displacement]

Personal status courts in liberated Iraqi cities have been receiving a steady stream of women petitioning for divorce from "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) elements.

Many of these women were forced to marry ISIS elements and no longer want to continue the marriages.

Forced marriage, sometimes in a polygamous situation, is part of the legacy of sexual violence ISIS elements have perpetrated against women, along with kidnapping and raping them or buying and selling women as slaves.

Nour, 28, whose real name has been changed, told Diyaruna she was forced to marry an ISIS fighter before the group overran Mosul in 2014.

"In spite of my repeated refusal to marry him, I gave in after my family and I were threatened with murder," she said. "It was a completely incompatible marriage and we had lots of problems."

"I was never happy with his extremist behaviour and thinking," she said, adding that he is "a source of shame, with whom I never again want to be associated".

Nour said she has not heard from him since late 2016, when the battle for Mosul began. She has petitioned for divorce, and is now awaiting the court's verdict.

'Extreme violence'

"Forced marriage was a form of extreme violence directed towards women," said Abeer Chalabi, head of the ministry's Women and Child Welfare Authority.

"ISIS members forced girls to marry them in an unconditional contract, and the girls and their families had no choice but to accept, because refusal would cost them their lives," she told Diyaruna.

These women's request for divorce represents "strong evidence of terrorists being rejected by their wives and families as well as by society", she said.

ISIS elements have violated the dignity of women, regarding them as "no more than chattel, with gang rape against young girls being another such atrocity", she added. "Their crimes violated all humanitarian and religious values."

The total number of ISIS wives is not known, but Chalabi noted that 800 ISIS wives live in shelters in northern and eastern Iraq with their children.

"Most women who are married to ISIS members have been subjected to blackmail and violence in order for them to accept these marriages," said Nuha Darwish, who teaches psychology at the University of Baghdad.

But some women did agree to the marriages, she said, adding that "such women will be subjected to interrogation and might be charged with supporting terrorism".

Illegal marriages

Many forced marriages occurred during the time that ISIS exercised full control over cities and governed the population with brute force, Darwish said.

"These marriages have no official status and are instead registered under unofficial licenses," she said.

These licenses were "issued by ISIS courts with aliases instead of the real names of the men, because terrorists were careful not to reveal their identity", she added, which renders these marriages illegal.

All women who fell prey to ISIS elements and whose rights were violated should receive assistance, Darwish said.

"We cannot leave them," she said. "We have to embrace them, rehabilitate them."

"ISIS militants are not only being rejected by society, but also by their families and tribes," said Ahrar al-Furat party chairman Sheikh Abdullah al-Jughaifi, former commander of the tribal mobilisation forces in Anbar.

"All the tribes have renounced their tribesmen who joined ISIS," he told Diyaruna, noting that when a tribe is certain that one of its own joined the group, it will immediately inform the authorities.

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