Shahsevan - Marriage and Family

Marriage. About four marriages in ten involve couples from the same community, but, unlike many Muslims, Shahsevan rarely marry their first paternal cousins; mother's brother's daughter/father's sister's son is a more common link. Marriages are most often made between distant relatives of the same community, or between members of neighboring communities. Many boys and girls are able to choose their own partners, and many say that they marry for love. The ceremonies associated with marriage provide the most elaborate and colorful occasions among the Shahsevan. Several years of visits, exchanges, and several large feasts culminate in a week or more of festivities, leading to the fetching of the bride to join her husband's family. There is virtually no divorce or separation. Perhaps three men in a community have second wives, who are usually remarried widows.

Domestic Unit. In each tent lives a household of seven or eight people, on average. The Shahsevan prefer larger households, and often brothers and their wives and children, or an older couple and their married sons, all stay together. There are no partitions in the tent, with the exception of the curtain behind which a son and his bride sleep during the first years of their marriage.

Inheritance. Livestock and other movable property are usually inherited by males only. Following Islamic law, a daughter nominally inherits half a son's share in pastures or farmland, although in practice she almost always transfers her inheritance to one or all of her brothers. Women do own certain items of household property, however, and may be able to accumulate cash and valuables, the existence of which is often kept secret until they die.

Socialization. A father participates indulgently in the socializing of his daughters and young sons, often leaving normal discipline to their mother. As a boy approaches the age when he can help with the herding, however, he is liable to severe discipline by his father. Boys are taught the qualities of bravery and stamina that are associated with their warrior tradition, as well as moderation, respect for elders, and jealousy of community honor. Girls should be modest but also responsible, strong, and hardy. Many stories are told of women managing nomadic households of their own or berating warriors who returned home defeated.

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