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The practice of temporary marriage has long been common in Shiite Muslim communities, especially in Iran. The idea is that rather than having an affair, a man who wants to be sexually involved with a woman should marry her — for a few months, or even, hours — so the relationship will be legitimate.
In Iraq, the practice was banned under Saddam Hussein but then flourished after the American invasion. Now, though, some men are using the system to take advantage of poor women, and many of Iraq’s Shiites say the very religious institutions that sanction such marriages are to blame.
One mother of three, who is so ashamed about what happened to her she doesn’t want to give her name, says her husband abandoned her when she found out he preferred men. She had no way to support the family.
A religious figure in her neighborhood promised to help. He brought her to his home, locked the door and had sex with her. He offered her $15.
For the man at least, it was a brief moment of muta’a, the Arabic word for pleasure — and the Arabic word for temporary marriage.
The woman says the man who had sex with her worked with leading Shiite religious clerics in the Iraqi city of Najaf. It’s one of the most revered places in Shiite Islam.