“In Kirkuk for second marriage? Go back where you came from”

Photo: Thomas Curryer

Layla Ahmad

Samir Muhammad resorted to the courts of Kirkuk and Duz Khurmatu four times in the past few months to complete the official procedures for his second marriage.

The 50-year-old man’s attempts to marry a woman from Kirkuk were blocked in Kurdistan region courts, where legislation forbids a man having more than one wife outside of very specific circumstances.

In 2008, politicians in the Iraqi Kurdistan region made some amendments to the Iraqi personal status law.

Under the amendments, a man in Iraqi Kurdistan can’t marry again unless there are exceptional reasons for this, for example, his first wife has a chronic disease or is unable to have children. And even if those circumstances exist, the husband must also seek the permission of his first wife if he wants a second wife. On top of that, the husband must be fair to, and able to provide for both wives.

Eventually, Samir Mohammed was unable to obtain judicial approval in Kurdistan Regional, and decided to go to Kirkuk courts; however, Samir did not specify to KirkukNow which reason was behind his decision to remarry. He stressed that he would continue his attempts to obtain judicial approval and issue the official certificates for his second marriage.

Currently none of the courts in Kirkuk, and Duz Khurmatu, a disputed district in Salahaddin province, issue second marriage certificates for men from Kurdistan Region provinces.

Yadgar Adalat, a lawyer who works in the court of Duz Khurmatu told KirkukNow that “the Kurdistan Region’s Supreme Judicial Council has officially requested the courts of Kirkuk and Duz Khurmatu not to issue marriage certificates for men officially registered with the Civil Status Department in the Kurdistan Region.”

He added that the courts in both Kirkuk and Duz Khurmatu have been rejecting second marriage permissions over the past two years, indicating that the requests of hundreds of men from the Kurdistan Region were let down.

Photo: Andre Hunter

“The number of men entering into a second marriage has decreased after the decision came into effect; for example, three days ago, a man and a woman came from Slemani’s Chamchamal district to Duz Khurmatu to obtain the court's approval to issue marriage certificates, but the judge rejected their request,” Adalat said.

According to the amendments made to the Personal Status Law, punishments for not abiding by the conditions laid down to permit polygyny, include jail sentences of between six and 12 months and a fine of IQD10 million (about US$8,600).

 The number of men entering into a second marriage has decreased after the decision came into effect

  Meanwhile, according instructions sent by the Kurdistan Region’s Supreme Judicial Council to courts in the territories disputed between the Iraqi federal government and the Kurdistan Regiional Government (KRG), even if the man lives in Kirkuk and other disputed territories, but his personal status is registered in Kurdistan Region provinces, he shall not be allowed to remarry.

However, Iraq’s personal status law of 1959 makes allowances for polygyny in the country. The legislation stipulates that if a man can prove that there is some lawful benefit to taking another wife and that he can afford to provide for both wives, then a judge may grant him permission to take two wives. But the would-be husband must get judicial permission. If he does not, there are penalties that include imprisonment and fines.

According to figures released by the Kurdistan Region’s Judicial Council, 589 second marriage cases, most of them in Slemani province were recorded in the Kurdistan region from 2013 to 2017, after the conditions required in the amended Personal Status Law were met.

Sayid Sirwan, a lawyer at a Kirkuk court, told KirkukNow that “second or third marriages are widespread in Kirkuk, but those who come from Kurdistan Region provinces are not allowed.”

Samir Muhammad, who is a government employee, stood before the judge for the third time. “The judge said go back where you came from because you can’t marry a second wife in Kirkuk.”

"All our attempts failed, I went to Duz Khurmatu bu I was told the same thing," Samir concluded.

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