By Samireh Hanaei

She is only 13. Her breasts have only just started to grow. She is barely 155 cm tall. Everyone seems to think she is the type not to grow fat. She tries to behave politely and elegantly. Listening to me attentively, she carefully considers her responses. “What made you marry?”, I ask. She doesn’t reply immediately. Thinking for a while she finally answers: “He was a nice boy and my family approved of him.” “How did your family come to terms with your young age and his?” I enquire. “They initially told me that they thought I was too young but eventually they gave in to my wish”, she says. I sense contradiction in her words. She herself did not know how she ended up married to this only just 20, motorbike loving boy, with barely the ability to grow a moustache.

“Have you thought about the future of your education? You are only in the 7th grade! What does your husband think of the matter?” “God will help”, she responds. It seems her husband hasn’t yet made his thoughts clear on the issue. She, however, knows that things are not going to be easy for her.

“Why him? Did you ever imagine that you would be married just two months after your 13th birthday?” I inquire. “He was my best suitor, the best chance I had for marriage” she plainly answered. “Have you forgotten that you are only 13 my dear?” I ask with great astonishment. She had believed herself to be a grown up; ready to marry a boy who himself had a long journey to manhood.

۱۳ year old Fatemeh defends both her decision to marry and her resistance to the disapproval of her illiterate parents. She no longer wants to continue the conversation. I notice her husband’s photo as her phone screensaver; seeing my glance she hurriedly conceals her phone from view, as though she wants to hide him away from me, scared of the many questions that might follow. She is tired of telling everyone that she is happy and without problems; she’s terrified to think that her life might not turn out as she had dreamt.

Fatemeh is not the only girl here in Bastak that has married young. There are so many girls her age already busy nurturing their kids in this region. Mothers, still children themselves, share their bed with boys eager to prove their manhood.

Early marriage can mostly be found in villages that associate womanhood with being a housewife. Most of these girls are promised to someone before reaching the legal age of 13; pledges that are made legal as soon as they reach that age. As a result it is hard to ascertain the exact number of females under the age of 15 getting married in the area of Bastak. Unfortunately, despite attempts made by Iranian welfare organisations and continued ‘reach-out’ work, the statistics showing the number of couples getting married with at least one partner being under 18 is growing yearly and requires special attention from the authorities.

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