Spanish news outlet El Mundo published the story of 47-year-old Hannan Serroukh, who was born in Morocco but lives in Spain, and whose strict Muslim stepfather tried to force her into a marriage at the age of 15. Despite her long-running efforts to fight the practice of forced marriages in Spain, since 2015, the number of forced marriages in the country has increased by 60 percent.
After her father’s death, Hannan’s mother remarried a Moroccan Orthodox Muslim who wanted to open a mosque in their town. He forbade playing music in their house, forcing them to wear the hijab and stop associating with Spanish friends. According to her stepfather, Hannan was corrupted by the Western lifestyle. For this reason, her stepfather demanded that she should marry him.
In response, Hannan decided to run away from home. The train conductor who met the girl took her to the police. Eventually, she ended in a child protection center.
Although Hannan was able to avoid a forced marriage, such marriages occur every two seconds in the world, according to the Plan International organization. Fourteen percent of these girls are under the age of 15, and only a third of them have reached the age of majority.
Only a handful of girls complain about this practice in Spain. However, complaints have doubled in the last four years. In other European countries, the same practice — common in many Muslim countries, along with a number of non-Muslim Asian countries like India and African countries like — is spreading. Germany, for example, currently has a major problem with child marriages in migrant communities.
In addition, mosque imams usually bless these marriages in Spain.
“There have been cases of couples presenting themselves in public as uncle and niece, and yet form a marriage recognized by the imam,” Hannan claimed.
This practice is most common in Spain in Catalonia, Valencia, some centers of the Basque Country, Fuenlabrada in Madrid, and Algeciras in Andalusia.
If a girl is forced into marriage, she should turn to the security forces and explain the situation to them. She can gain legal protection. However, like Hannan, she is highly likely to lose contact with her family.