Thursday, April 19, 2007

Fatherhood & Adultery

14 Mar 07
The guys that stay here in the compound come down from Baghdad, Fallujah, Najaf and other areas and stay several weeks then go home. They said they enjoy staying on the compound because we always have electricity and water (usually). In Baghdad they said they only have electricity for 2 hours a day. They cook by propane and those that can afford it have generators to power a lamps or the television in their homes. I thought about the aftermath of Hurricanes Hugo or Katrina except it’s 4 years after the invasion and still no reliable utilities.

The guys ask about American culture and customs all the time. Nearly all of them would immigrate to the U.S. given the opportunity. We had a discussion about bread over dinner and they wanted to know how to ask for their type of bread in an American grocery store. It’s a large flat bread similar to pita bread or a thick tortilla. Anyway, they wanted to know why they couldn’t just ask for “bread” and get Iraqi bread. They’ve never experienced it so they have no idea of the options we have. We tried to explain how many types of bread there were but it was pointless. I asked them how many types of bread they have in Iraq. Nader said “two—Iraqi bread and Kurdish bread.”

They had heard rumors that we could not take multiple wives in the U.S. I confirmed that for them then asked “besides, who wants two wives?” They cited cultural and religious reasons for having more than one wife. We talked about children and they mentioned children born out of wedlock. They asked what we would put on the birth certificate if the mother did not know the father’s name. I told them they would likely put “unknown.”

They asked, “can this child go to school?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“To college?” They asked.


“Even the Air Force Academy?”

Again, “Yes.”

Each answer seemed more incredulous to them.

“And become an officer?”


“Can he marry?”


There look said “Unbelievable!” But I was increasingly surprised by their reactions to my answers. I was equally surprised that women have children out of wedlock in Iraq and that the children would be so shunned. I had to ask how could this happen given the focus on protecting a woman’s virtue that Adnan explained. They explained that there are only a few conditions and prostitution seemed to be the most prevalent and culturally recognizable. (Call me naive but I had to contain my surprise at the fact that there are Iraqi prostitutes.)

Regarding the children, Khalid explained that in such instances the child will be left in the streets and the authorities will take the child to an orphanage. The child will not be educated or make anything of himself. Likewise, he will never be allowed to marry. That’s one reason amongst many reasons why men can take multiple wives—to offset the bastard population that is not allowed to marry.

They asked about adultery. “Does the woman cheat on the man in the United States?”

Not wanting to play into the “Baywatch” stereotype they have of us I said, “as in any other society in the world, yes, it happens. Does it happen in Iraq?” They said yes and that it was not common but also not uncommon. They explained it was usually the result of some “biological condition” in the woman. I was surprised and asked what would happen in such instances. They said the husband could divorce her but 90 percent of the time he will simply kill her. They explained that killing her was well within the man’s legal rights. You’d think there would be less adultery if that were the case.

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