Gee, what could account for this? What has changed in Spain since 2015?
“Alert: in the last six years forced marriages have increased in Spain by 60%,” translated from “Alerta: en los últimos seis años los matrimonios forzosos han aumentado en España un 60%,” by Cristina Aldaz, El Mundo, January 8, 2022:
The stepfather of Hannan Serroukh wanted to marry her off shortly before she was 15 years old. Now she is 47, she is a member of the Politeia Foundation, and she has been fighting for more than 30 years to prevent the same thing from happening to other girls in Spain. And it is true that in our country, forced marriages have increased by 60% since 2015.
Hannan Serroukh was born in Barcelona, the daughter of Moroccan parents who emigrated to Spain in the late 1960s. Her life, integrated into Spanish society, was happy until her father died. She then entered into a nightmare with consequences that have lasted to this day.
Her mother remarried another Moroccan, who, according to Hannah, used her to come to Spain. A follower of the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood organization, her goal was not to work, as had been her parents, but to open a mosque in Figueras.
With her arrival, the lives of Hannan and her mother changed radically: music was banned in her house, they had to put on the hijab and stop associating with her Spanish friends. According to him, the girl was “very contaminated by the West,” Hannah recounts, “that’s why he felt I should marry a man from his faith.”
She reacted quickly: “He had made allusions to my past life and that made me decide to flee.” She left for Gerona and was found there by a train conductor, who led her to the police, and then she was admitted to a child protection center.
With this flight, Hannan was able to avoid being the victim of a forced marriage, a practice that in Spain has increased by 60% since 2015 and that occurs in the world every 2 seconds, according to the international organization Plan. 14% of these forced unions are with girls under the age of 15, and only one in 3 has reached the age of 18.
In any case, and according to Hannan Serroukh, in our country the figures are confusing because few girls come to denounce this coercion. However, in Catalonia, the number of complaints has doubled since 2017 until today.
And it is true that, according to her, the imams of the mosques bless these marriages, which are often only registered in the country of origin of the girls’ parents until they turn 18, when they are registered here. “There have been cases of couples presenting themselves in public as uncle and niece, and yet form a marriage recognized by the imam,” says Hannan.
The areas of Spain most affected by this practice are, according to her, Catalonia, Valencia, some centers of the Basque Country, Fuenlabrada in Madrid and Algeciras in Andalusia.
How to run away
How should a girl act who is impelled by her own family to marry a man she does not even know? Serroukh says that she must undertake “a difficult path that nevertheless is worth it. She must approach the Security Forces in the best possible way, tell them about her situation and they will take care of her, since she will be protected by our institutions.”
“Everyone is the master of his/her own life and the shaper of his/her own future,” concluded Hannan, who was able to escape a forced marriage but had to pay a high price: she has not met her mother and siblings since.