Sunday, July 29, 2007


26 Jul 07
Lt Diya (not to be confused with my other friend Dhiaa…we call this one “Diya, Jr”) brought a cake in the other day to announce that he is getting married. A few days later one of our maintenance officers, Lt Ali (also not to be confused with my friend Major Ali), came back from his home town and announced the same. They are both in their late 20s and are very excited about getting married.

Earlier in the month we received a Bilingual/Bicultural Advisor (BBA). Ali (because three Ali's in the squadron wasn't enough) is an Iraqi who immigrated to Canada in the early 90s but recently returned to Iraq to be a BBA. Much like Mustafa, Ali found his own wife. However, his brother’s marriage was arranged…sort of.

Ali’s brother had seen the “woman of his dreams” at the university during his senior year. He followed her here and there for several weeks collecting tidbits of information about the girl including her family name, where she lived, what sort of family she came from, etc. Finally, he went to his parents and asked them to go to her family and ask for her hand.

Ali says his family is very respected in his town so no family could say no if someone from his family came to them proposing marriage so his parents went to visit hers. Once there the two mothers went off to the side to discuss the arrangement. Ali’s mother explained that she would like her son to marry the other woman’s daughter. The woman said yes but explained she had four young, single daughters so asked which daughter. Ali’s brother had collected all sorts of information about the girl but never thought to get her first name. The mothers agreed it must be the oldest daughter so settled upon her. His brother was horrified to learn it was not the girl he had dreamt of but the arrangement was made. He had never seen the older sister so went to find her. When he saw her he was satisfied that she was equally as beautiful. Years later he confessed the mix up to his wife but to this day her sister has no idea that the boy had secretly been eyeing her.

In a later discussion Ali talked about the custom of multiple wives and its popularity in Islam. At times Ali said he has become dissatisfied with his own wife but would not take another wife explaining that to bring another woman into their home would be an insult to the woman who has already given so much of her life to him. However, he explained, Shiia Islam allows for temporary/short term marriages that can last for one hour, one week, one year, etc. Both the man and woman must agree to the conditions and term limit of the marriage. Additionally, the woman cannot be a virgin. Furthermore, though the marriage can be over within hours, the woman must agree that she will not take another husband within the same menstruation cycle to ensure there is no question of paternity if the temporary marriage were to result in a pregnancy. Ali is very interested in taking a temporary wife.

Single Iraqi men are really funny when you talk to them about women…they’re actually quite immature. Lt Anees is one of the maintenance officers in the squadron. He is in his late 20s. I asked him if he had a girlfriend. He laughed and giggled like a 13 year old boy afraid of admitting that he might actually like to catch kooties from the right lady… “no, no, Bill [shaking head, looking down and smiling/giggling]. I don’t have a girlfriend.”

We talked about dating customs in Iraq, most of which I’ve already discussed. Anees is waiting for his family to find the right woman. When they do, they will approach her family and arrange the marriage. Then Anees will be allowed to court his wife-to-be. Until then he only hopes for a beautiful wife.

He followed the discussion of Arab/Iraqi customs by saying that he believed the same customs are true in the U.S. He believes the big cities are faster more free but that small towns in the U.S. observed the same customs and traditions where families arranged marriages. I tried hard to convice him that arranged marriages are an extremely rare event (I've only met one Korean-American couple whose marriage was arranged). Frankly, I'm not certain he believed me.

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