War takes its toll on Iraqi marital plans

Years of violence have made the idea of tying the knot for many Iraqis a distant prospect. Love and war don’t go very well together, and Iraq is turning out to be a prime example.

Since 2007, the country’s government has been offering cash bonuses to married couples from different sectarian groups.

However, since the US-led invasion of Iraq began in 2003, just staying alive rather than hoping to get married has been at the top of many young people’s minds.

Journalist Baki Nakad, 40, is a confirmed bachelor because, he says, he’s safer alone.

“You can’t get married now. What is your baby going to see when it’s born? Destruction, civil war, sectarian violence. I personally prefer to be single – if anything bad happens, I just take my bag and leave the house, and I don’t leave anybody behind to worry about,” Nakad said.

In a country devastated by six years of war and violence, the economic conditions are very tough and living standards harsh.

Prices that would seem very modest and affordable elsewhere mean nothing in Iraq – where buying or even renting a house can be well beyond the pocket of many Iraqis of average circumstances, as shop owner Abu Asir observed.

“Finding a home to live in is a problem. Everything is very expensive – you need up to $700 a month to rent an apartment, to buy one would be some $10,000. Household things and furniture are affordable, but not apartments,” Asir said.

With men uncertain about their future, women find it much more difficult to marry. Iraqi culture means that women wait to be chosen, rather than the other way around.

“Women nowadays are in a very difficult situation because we have to wait for our chance. Lots of men have left the country and most girls are destined to be alone,” journalist Fatina Ramzi said.

The continuing instability and economic difficulties mean that the fundamental hope for young people of enjoying a normal family life is becoming nothing more than a dream for many in the land ravaged by conflict.