My Kurdish tutor is getting MARRIED! I was shocked when I found out today – it was extremely sudden (it usually is). Raz was so focused on her studies, and just a few weeks ago she swore to my friend Betsy that she wasn’t ready to marry.

She’s 24, so she’s definitely “getting on” in Kurdish culture. Most Kurdish women I’ve met got married when they were about 19. Raz met her fiancee/husband at work, and he proposed to her SIX TIMES. Each time, she turned him down. But this time, Raz said, she just decided to say yes.

Kurdish marriages are still difficult for me to understand. Generally, the man and woman have no interaction except for eye contact before the proposal. Eye contact is VERY suggestive here. After a few months of very, very subtle interactions which I don’t fully understand, the man will propose to the woman.

Then, the fiancees, along with both mothers, shop for rings. Soon there’s a ring ceremony, and the two are considered “engaged,” but they’re really married. If they were to call off the wedding after the ring ceremony, they would be considered divorced. Raz had her ring ceremony yesterday, and afterward they went for pictures. Taking wedding pictures is a very formal affair, and most photo salons are open for the express purpose of engagement photos.

A few months after the ring ceremony is the wedding/engagement party. It’s a big deal, but it’s not formal in the way that Americans would expect. The two simply sign a piece of paper to formally become husband and wife, then drive to another photo salon, and then they go to a party hall. Like photo salons, there are party halls which only host wedding parties. Then everyone parties, and after the party, the husband and wife are allowed to move in together.

I often see wedding groups driving in streamer-covered cars to the photo salons, and then to the party. They’re accompanied by a bunch of friends. It’s like a wedding caravan.

Of course, it very common for the men to sleep around after marriage. I’ve heard many, many stories from Kurdish women about this. And, surprisingly, there are quite a few Kurdish divorces thanks to cheating. I haven’t quite figured out the stigma on divorced women. It’s not ideal, and generally looked down upon, but it depends on the family how severely they treat divorcees. My friend, Zhin, broke off her engagement before her wedding party, and her family essentially disowned her. But my old TA, Sara, is divorced with a young daughter, and lives with her parents on seemingly very good terms.

Of course, if a woman or man is not married, they live with their parents. You’re not allowed to live (alone) with an unrelated someone of the opposite sex unless you’re officially married. The Asaish keep close records – two of my co-workers got married in October just because they wanted to live together in their own apartment. She’s British, and he’s Kurdish, and until they got married they lived with his parents and sisters. It got very crowded.

I’m not sure how common it is for a Kurd to live on their own – whether it’s just not culturally acceptable, or whether there are actually laws prohibiting it. A few of the expats I know live on their own, but we’re allowed to subvert quite a few laws here because we’re expats.

Anyway, I’ll talk to Raz and get more details about how Kurdish marriage works. If I’m lucky I’ll get to attend her wedding party! I’m hopefully getting a jili Kurdi this week, and if I’m invited I’ll get to wear it to the party, as well as for Newroz (the Kurdish new year).

Women wearing jili Kurdiakan
Women wearing jili Kurdiakan

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