By Muhamet Brajshori
According to a report by the German Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, forced marriage primarily affects young Muslim women. Of those forced into marriage 83.4% were Muslim, nearly a third were 17 or under, while 40% fell between the ages of 18 and 21.
German Federal Family Affairs Minister Kristina Schroeder put it succinctly when she remarked “Whoever marries children against their will … is doing them violence.”
Many of the victims were threatened with violence and even death.
As for the parents of these young women, the most common country of origin is Turkey at 44%, followed by a combined area of Serbia, Kosovo and Montenegro, then Iraq and Afghanistan.
There are nearly 3 million Turkish immigrants in Germany, making them the largest non-German ethnic group in the country.
Social workers and other experts are concerned that the countries of Southeast Europe figure so prominently.
Burbuqe Llapashtica, head of the Kosovar Cultural Centre in Hamburg, tells SETimes that the findings surprised her. She says that measures must be taken in Kosovo and elsewhere in the region.
“I did not expect it, but surely due to the high number of migrants from the region it is a fact. German legislation is good enough, offering … strong protection for victims, but those ‘crimes’ happen in the home countries where legislation is weak,” Llapashtica says.
She says it is difficult to say where exactly where these families are coming from: Serbia, Kosovo or Montenegro.
“There is the problem with passports; some still have the Serbian/Yugoslav passport, and some have got Kosovar or Montenegrin passports. For that reason, those countries are listed together. Forced marriage — from my experience — is happening in all three countries,” says Llapashtica.
Yildiz Sahin is a Turkish social worker in Oberhausen, Germany and has worked with victims of family violence and forced marriage. She told SETimes that cultural background plays an important role in forcing girls and boys to marry.
“Some families fear that if their children do not marry someone from their home country, they will lose their religion or their cultural ties. Their fear is understandable, but this should not serve as a reason to go to the extreme as happens sometimes, using violence and threats. I must say that not just girls are victims. Boys also get forced to marry someone,” says Sahin.
She adds that the integration of families with immigrant backgrounds into German society should be a priority both for the immigrants and society.
“The issue of integration should be taken more seriously. German society should accept those people as they are, but also immigrants should be more open to accept the fact that they live in a different society with a different culture, which their children someday will consider as their culture. They face culture shock,” says Sahin.
Igor Cvetkovic, a sociologist from Belgrade, says the Serbian government should address the issue even if the number and origin of those involved is unclear.
As for the German report itself, he is somewhat ambivalent. “It’s a good step that this report has been written,” Cvetkovic tells SETimes, though he questions whether it may have been politically motivated. “Immigrants and integration in Germany is a problem, and this report might serve as an argument to pressure the immigrants, but also to attack them culturally.”
About the author: SETimes
The Southeast European Times Web site is a central source of news and information about Southeastern Europe in ten languages: Albanian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, English, Greek, Macedonian, Romanian, Serbian and Turkish. The Southeast European Times is sponsored by the US European Command, the joint military command responsible for US operations in 52 countries. EUCOM is committed to promoting stability, co-operation and prosperity in the region.