Iraqi Culture


Iraqi households are usually multigenerational, with up to four generations living together. However, the concept of family often extends to include all possible related that can be traced in their lineage. Therefore, Iraqis may refer to hundreds of people as being members of their family. For Kurdish Iraqis, social organisation is more community orientated than family orientated. Nevertheless, across broad Iraqi culture, family is seen as the basic unit of society and a unified singularity.

This is because in cultures, such as Iraq, the family is the first a person joins at birth. The interests of the family are expected to supersede those of the individual, and loyalty (such as preferential treatment) is shown to fellow family members. Wealthy individuals are expected to financially assist less fortunate family members by providing job opportunities or sharing assets. The family an individual belongs to can define one’s reputation, status and honour, and the act of an individual can impact the perception of the entire family by others. Thus, people often operate with the protection of their family honour in mind. When confronted with criticism of their family, Iraqis can be expected to react by interpreting the facts in such a way as to prevent the discrediting of their family. Furthermore, a family member’s disgrace or mistakes are not usually spoken of to friends and are kept private to protect their honour.

Iraqi society still views misbehaviour by women as more dishonourable than misbehaviour by men. Therefore, women are often seen as particularly vulnerable targets that need protection. It is considered too personal and rude to ask directly about a person’s wife, sister or daughter. A woman’s mistake or loss of control is sometimes interpreted as a failure of the of the family to protect her from doing so. Furthermore, this belief that it is a man’s duty to protect and provide for his female family members means Iraqi society justifies men inheriting twice as much as women.

In the traditional Arab society, children typically live in their parents’ house until they are married or ready to have children of their own. Therefore, parental control extends beyond the age of 18 (the Western age of independence) and continues to influence people’s decision-making throughout their adult years. Women traditionally move into the house of their husband at marriage and come under the control of their in-laws when they marry. The dynamic of parental discipline classically entails doting overprotection of children but strict and heavy reprimand when they misbehave.

Within the household , elders are deeply respected and deferred to. The father or oldest male is the of the family. His opinion will prevail and in divorce proceedings of a Muslim couple, it is often presumed that children automatically belong to him. The mother’s role is largely to fulfil domestic duties and care for the children. Though women have a lower status than men in the household, they retain significant influence on household affairs and are usually revered by their children. People tend to answer to their mother obediently throughout their lifetime. If a wife moves in with her husband’s family at marriage (as is usually the case), his mother will become an authority figure for his wife and children.

Dating and Marriage
Marriage was once mostly arranged in Iraq; however, people now have the freedom to choose their spouse. Parents still often arrange outings and introductions (dates) for their children with potential suitors.

It is a cultural custom in Iraq for the marriage contract to be under the man’s name. Therefore, the wife needs her husband’s consent to get divorced if she is the one requesting a separation. However, under traditional Islamic law, the husband is considered to be the financially responsible party in a partnership. Therefore, he must cover the cost of the divorce – especially if there are children involved. This type of marriage contract is called Talaq (unilateral).

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