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More couples say ‘I do’ in Sulaimani despite harsh economic times

By Rudaw 3/6/2017
A colourful traditional Kurdish wedding. Photo: Rudaw
A colourful traditional Kurdish wedding. Photo: Rudaw
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region — Younger Kurdish couples who marry now are more likely to stay together longer than previous years despite deterioration of economic conditions, at least in one Kurdish main city, according to figures on Sulaimani’s marriage and divorce rates from the office of national statistics.

The data shows that divorce rates have dropped notably since the 2015 financial crash which effectively deterred young couples from marrying amid unprecedented economic uncertainty exacerbated by the war with jihadist militants and strained political ties with Iraq’s central government. 

The office says marriage rates are more than 6 times divorce rates for every recorded month since January this year and the trend is likely to continue unabated for the remainder of 2017. 

In May alone, 826 couples tied the knot while only 126 marriages have ended unhappily, the data shows, which also suggests an 8 percent increase in marriages compared to December and November last year. 

Going through a turbulent financial period since 2014 when ISIS attacked Kurdish regions along its southern borders with Iraq, coupled with the dramatic fall of oil prices, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) struggled to pay wages to public employees while faced with a wave of people fleeing war zones in Iraq and Syria. 

The KRG’s distressing austerity measures in late 2015 and onwards prompted large scale migration of especially young men to the diaspora, a trend that has reversed over the past year with many Kurdish migrants returning to Kurdistan after spending almost harsher times in Europe and abroad as refugees. 

Although still under immense pressure to cope with its expenses, the government has managed to pay salaries almost regularly since early 2016 and restore order in the financial sector after the chaotic months following Iraq’s decision to cut the KRG budget in February 2014. 

Official data showed in 2016 that divorce rates in the Kurdistan Region had increased by more than 60 percent since 2012, a worrying trend in a region with predominantly conservative values. 

The number of couples that filed for divorce in 2015 was 9,295, while three years earlier only 6,079 marriages had ended in divorce, according to the region's high court of justice, which records marriages and divorces in the country.

The rate was considerably higher among young couples between 22 and 35, with almost half of marriages ending in divorce, records showed. 

The poverty rate is still high in Kurdistan Region, four times larger than in the boom year of 2013, growing from 3 percent to 15 percent, the head of statistics department in Sulaimani has said. 

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