Yezidis - Marriage and Family

Marriage. The Yezidis marry young, at around 15 years of age for boys and 13 for girls. One must marry within the Yezidi community; there are also restrictions on marriages between the clerical and lay classes and between relatives. In Armenia, Yezidis generally do not marry outside their class—and never marry Kurds. Some assimilated urban Yezidis have married Armenians.

Monogamy is the rule, except for wealthy or high-ranking individuals (e.g., the emir, who may take six or more wives). In general marital partners choose each other on the basis of mutual attraction, although the consent of their respective family heads is considered necessary. The prospective husband must pay a bride-price ( kalam ) of about thirty sheep or goats to the woman's father or brother. Elopements are sometimes secretly arranged by the couple to avoid this major expense.

The marriage ceremony begins with the escorting of the bride from her father's house to that of the groom. Along the way she prays at each shrine she encounters, including Christian churches. Upon her arrival at the groom's home, the latter greets her with a blow from a small stone, to indicate her submission to him from then on. The bride remains in the groom's house for three days, concealed behind a curtain in a darkened room, during which time the groom cannot see her. On the evening of the third day the sheikh solemnizes the marriage in a brief ceremony, marked by the bride and groom each taking the end of a stick and breaking it, to symbolize the intactness of their relationship until death breaks it asunder.

Divorce can be obtained, although the testimony of witnesses to infidelity is sometimes deemed necessary. Should a Yezidi man leave the community and remain abroad for more than a year, his marriage can be annulled, and he may be forbidden to marry another Yezidi woman as well.

Domestic Unit. The Yezidis live in nuclear-family groups. The father is head of the household and exercises full authority over his wife and children. The eldest son is second in authority after the father.

Inheritance. Wills are made orally, before three witnesses. Property is divided equally among a deceased man's sons or, if he has left no sons, among his brothers or cousins. Daughters do not receive a share of the inheritance, and even the money paid for their purchase as brides is divided among their brothers and uncles.

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