It was no secret that young, underage Muslim girls are married off to wealthy Arab sheikh in Hyderabad. It has been happening for decades and we have many a stories grabbing limelight in national and international media. But no one thought that it was so much prevalent and that there was a racket consisting of middle men of all sorts who facilitated muta’a or temporary marriage.
There is no denying that these reports of temporary marriages and their scope has shocked the Muslim community not just in Hyderabad but across the country.
As many as eight Arab citizens from middle aged men to a man in his eighties were arrested from Hyderabad’s old city two days ago. While five of these people came from Oman three of them are from Qatar. One of Qatari Sheikh is reportedly as old as eighty and must have many grand children back home in his sheikhdom.
The combination of the sheikhs is not surprising as sheikhs come from two nations that are among very wealthy nations. Qatar, in particular is the wealthiest nation in the world when it comes to per capita income and prosperity of the individuals who are nationals of Qatar.
Several dozen people have been taken into custody following the arrest of the sheikhs. Reports suggest that three Qazis, including a chief Qazi from Mumbai, were also arrested who arranged fake documents to send even underage girls out of the country.
A very interesting aspect of the Arabs coming to Hyderabad and surrounding cities in search of temporary marriage is the fact that all of them are not super wealthy. A senior Hyderabad police Tajuddin Ahmed says that there are not just super-wealthy sheikhs coming to the city. He says that the brokers classify them as ‘autowala’, ‘ambassador-wala’ and ‘innovawala’ – the third being the category who stay in upmarket hotels, he said.
There is no denying that Hyderabad is not a destination for very wealthy sheikhs. Wealthy sheikhs go to Egypt to get married to very pretty and underage girls. Tourist marriage is no secret in Egypt and there is a law to financially protect the girls, though it legitimizes such marriages.
A report says that Egypt’s new tourist marriage law requires a foreign man marrying an Egyptian woman, 25 or more years younger than him, to deposit 50,000 Egyptian pounds ($6,383) in his future wife’s name in the National Bank of Egypt. Commonly known as the “tourist” or “Seasonal marriages” law, it is directed at non-Egyptian men vacationing in the country who marry girls much younger than their age. In many cases, the women have been divorced by the end of the vacation.
Reports suggest that the girls were paraded before the sheikhs, many of whom are the age of their grandfathers. The police say girls were literally paraded before Arab Sheiks, a rate was fixed for them and the Arab would pick and choose depending on what he wanted and how much he could pay.
Hyderabad South Zone Deputy Commissioner of Police V Satyanarayana says that the city police have identified at least 15 Hyderabadi brokers who live in Oman and Qatar and make contact with sheikhs there who are in search of teen brides. “These brokers help the sheikhs get in touch with families of girls here and deals are struck after which the sheikhs come to Hyderabad. There are several women whose main job is to identify poor families who are interested in giving away their daughters in the name of marriage for money without bothering about the age and intention of the groom. In cases where the sheikhs arranged visas and took the newly-married girls with them, the girls end up getting exploited by several others. A few victims we have interviewed have themselves told women police about it,” he said”.
An NDTV report says, “Among the 35 Hyderabadi brokers cops have identified so far, 25 are women. Police said brokers not only identify and keep the young girls ready for marriage but also offer various packages. In brokers’ parlance ‘Shaikh’ is a rich Arab who is willing to pay a lot of money for a teenage bride and would like to stay at a decent hotel and hire luxury cars”.