Marriage a distant dream for many here

Khulud yearns to be swept away by a “prince charming”, but like many young Iraqis in the former jihadist stronghold of Mosul she worries she may never marry.

“I haven’t found a husband or a job -- my life consists of household chores,” says the 24-year-old university graduate, who feels increasingly trapped in her parents’ home.

“My older sister, who is 37, already has four children... I still perhaps have a chance to find a husband, but my 29-year-old sister has much less” hope, Khulud adds, a sad smile marking the corners of her mouth.

Before the Islamic State group (IS) made Mosul its self-proclaimed capital in mid-2014, Iraq’s second city was a bastion of traditionalism and conservatism. It was rare for women to hit their 20s before marrying or being engaged.

And the wait for young people to seal their nuptials is getting longer and longer. Suitors are finding it increasingly hard to save enough cash to fund a dowry and a wedding, never mind set up home with a spouse.

Some couples are even relying on charity. At a function room in Mosul, hundreds of people -- the guests from 10 wedding parties -- tuck into a communal meal. 
Mohammed Sami, a 27-year-old blacksmith who is among the grooms, says he is just happy to be here, despite not being able to afford a suit for himself or a wedding dress for his wife.

“Unemployment and the long interruption to salaries has prevented very many young people who want to start a family from marrying,” Ashraf Ismail, who works in women’s protection, says.

She wants the government “to provide Rs 3 lakh to every man wishing to marry, then a million rupee for each child born,” she says.

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