Dilbar: It was 1963 when they said they will do an arranged marriage with a family. One day our family said that we would have guests but they did not tell me why. They said the guests would come to our village, they were some friends of my father, and they would come to get their salary. I said fine. So I prepared food, cooked fresh chicken, cooked rice and beans, still they did not tell me.

Some women came to our house. They got out of a car and stood at our door. I asked “then why there are women with them.” My sister, God bless her, said there was a family in the village who were their relatives, that’s why they came. She did not say “they have come to see you.” Well, I looked. There were two women and four men. I put the food for them on the plates. Among us, it’s shameful for a woman to go to the place of men. The men ate in the sitting room. I served the food and my family members took it to the sitting room. And I went and welcomed the women.

I said they were guests, so I kissed them and sat down. Then the men of the family insisted, saying the girl, meaning me, should go and welcome them. And my family did not tell me it was for this subject of asking for my hand. Well, anyway my eldest brother came, asking if I welcomed the men. I said “no! We never welcome men, do we? It’s anyway a shame for us to welcome men when they come to our house. We, women are inside the house and men are in the sitting room.” Well, my sister came and said “you want the truth? These people have come to see you.” I said “it has been two days and why haven’t you told me about this so that I could look after my beauty a little bit, right? It’s necessary for a girl to make herself beautiful when they go to ask for her hand.” She said “nothing is wrong with you. You’re fine.”

When one is young it’s different from now when I’m 80 years old. Well, my uncle came and said “go. It’s a shame; I swear your father said when I come back home my daughter will never show herself to you to the guests, because she feels shy in front of me”. My uncle said “come and welcome them.” I said “I’ll never come.” He asked “why?” I said “because of the rage that you did not tell me during these two days.” He said “I’m telling you now and now I’m telling you go to welcome them for my sake.”

Well, I liked this uncle so much; he was dearer than my father in my heart. I said “ok, I’ll listen to you.” He said “come.” But the men came and sat inside the house; they did not stay in the sitting room, they came inside the house. I said “fine.” Well, I went and I just said “you’re welcomed” and I retreated. Well, I saw they all followed me. You know why, they came to look at me. My father-in-law came, caught my hand and made me stand up, saying “stand up, I swear I just want to look at your height, to see if you are tall or not.” I said nothing. He looked at my height and said “God created this and we made it. It’s done; now it was done but we have not brought her fiancé.” They said “if she speaks with him, she will not marry him.” That’s why they had not brought him. Because it was the fate, it was done.

Then, they went and they told my family, “come tomorrow to perform the engagement ceremony.” So hurriedly! Well, it was Friday. My father, my uncle, the father of my sister-in-law, my mother and my sister said “well, we’ll go.” I asked “are you going so soon? But look at them well lest they are not of our level. If their son is a cowboy, no problem, I accept him but let their daughter, my brother’s future wife, be a good girl.”

At that time there was charok, a Kurdish veil for women, which covers the shoulders, the back and the legs up to the knees. I sent my charok for my brother’s future wife. I had a ring on my finger. I took it out, too and sent it, too. I covered it with a hawri, a Kurdish traditional delicate brightly-colored cloth, covering the head and face of a bridegroom, and sent it, saying “if you accept the girl perform the engagement ceremony. Though the girl’s family did not bring us anything, considering that I was going to be the future wife of their son, too, but that is not important. You go.” Well, they went and there they engaged them, my brother and the girl, and the next day they came and chose the clothes for the wedding without asking for my opinion. But I had some gold myself. Without asking my opinion, they chose the clothes and when they came back they said “the coming Friday is the wedding party.”

Researcher: The wedding for both of you, you and you brother, too, right, Aunt Dilbar?

Dilbar: Yah, mine and my brother’s. Thus, Friday came. Without asking our opinion, the engagement ceremony was done. For each one of us they made a set of Kurdish clothes, they had them tailored for us. Well, we tried them and they were so long. The bride was off; they had her get into a passenger car and she was fine. Our area was mountainous and in mountainous areas cars would get stuck. So, they came in a pick-up vehicle. They put us in the passenger part of the pick-up and I got sick. Since childhood, I’ve been getting sick in cars. I said “remove the hawri from my eyes, remove it no matter if everybody looks at me, let them look at me, let everybody from my village, my relatives and kinfolk look at me, I don’t care.”

Well, they brought the bride, my brother’s wife; they brought the tall bride. They had covered her eyes only with a white cloth. They made me stand up, saying “come on, let the brides kiss each other, in arranged marriages, they should exchange kisses.” She did not remove the face veil, she stretched out her hand and kissed me. I did not kiss her, feeling something in my heart because she did not remove the veil from her eyes. We went, well, we went and I didn’t know who was my fiancé; I swear, I didn’t see him, I didn’t know him.

Researcher: The other bride also had not seen your brother?

Dilbar: Yah, she also had not seen my brother. We, these four people, had not seen each other. But my brother was handsome. He walked in a manly manner and wore a big Klash, some sort of shoes made of yarn in Hawraman area in Kurdistan. Well, the evening came and they brought dinner. I said I had got sick on the way so I would not eat. Even then I didn’t know which one was him my husband. At that time people all had a big room and no more. Well, we sat down. My husband served tea. But they said his name was Ahmad. His brother said “Ahmad give us a tea, too.” Faisal’s mother had accompanied me. Previously, they would send a woman with the bride. I turned my face from side to side, apparently I was feeling shy, because my husband was sitting there. Well, they said “why, she is now starting to feel shy while she’s been sitting with him since morning. Such an arranged marriage we have!”

I did not see the other bride, my sister-in-law. I was dying of anxiety. I had a brother-in-law. He was very ugly. My husband was not as ugly as him. Yet, he was a little ugly. I said to myself “no problem, I will accept him the way he is, provided that my brother’s wife is beautiful.” Well, my brother, came to visit me.

Researcher: Was it a tradition for the brother whom you underwent the arranged marriage for his sake to come to visit you?

Dilbar: Yes. He just came to check how his sister was. His home was in Kirkuk and we, both families, were at the village. Well, it was evening in Ramadan, more correctly eight days before Ramadan. I said “for God’s sake tell me brother if my sister-in-law, your wife is pretty?” He said “haven’t you seen Ali, she is exactly like Ali.” My pain doubled. Now my sister-in-law is more beautiful than that time.

My father and mother in law danced in front of me on the wedding day until I came to eat, right?

Researcher: Aunt Dilbar, I mean the wedding day, when they took you at the back of the car.

Dilbar: The wedding day they took me to that house.


Researcher: What did you wear? How was your dress?

Dilbar: Kurdish clothes and even charok. I had my head covered, fastened with a red strip and I had gold flowers on my hair. I had two gold flowers.

Researcher: How were your shoes?

Dilbar: I had a pair of high heels. The straps of the high heels at that time were stretched and fastened here. They are similar to the summer sandals, which children wear. I had a black pair and a brown pair. On the wedding day, I wore the black ones. Later on, on the third day, they took the bride to some spring. So, they said “come on the bride let’s go to the water.” The brides would then bring water from the spring and carry it on their shoulders. This way you would carry the water on your shoulders. Then, I got dressed very well. I wore beautiful clothes; white kawa, a Kurdish long garment, covering the shoulders, back and foot, a beautiful pink dress, very light colors, high heels on my foot and a white georgette scarf on my shoulders. We went to the water. Well, they came with me once. The second time I went and they didn’t come with me, I didn’t know which one was our house. I went to another neighborhood. I lost the house. The children followed me, calling, “Aunt, aunt, come back to our home.” This was the third day.

Well, at that time I was not aware of any music whatsoever. You know what, at my brother’s wedding party, because my sister-in-law did not like the music, they stopped playing the drum. By the time I reached there, the drum had stopped. She was saying “I won’t marry, I won’t.”

Researcher: Aha, it means the woman who was going to be your brother’s wife did not allow playing drum and hornpipe?

Dilbar: Yah, the drum and hornpipe were being played but later when they argued with my sister-in-law, they spoilt the music. And I went there, waiting so long to be taken into the shindig with drum and hornpipe but I saw there was nothing. The party was ruined.

Researcher: And you did not dance for the bride from the other family?

Dilbar: We had a funeral. One of our relatives was killed. Then my father said he did not agree to hold a party. We just served food. People had food.

Researcher: Then how was this feast, mother?

Dilbar: The feast. You know what food we had prepared? We had slaughtered an animal a sheep or a goat, putting the meat in beans broth, and there was chopped meat over the rice, the Kurdish rice. We grew rice in the plain. My family had cooked Kurdish rice. Such a big number of people were invited. People came, all had food, and drank tea. In our tradition they take the bride to her husband’s house before eating. Well, they did not give me food, they told me “go.” We went very far. Our way was very long. Well, also there, at my husband’s home, I did not eat as I got sick because of the car.

Then, the bride time was over. My husband became a soldier. Then I accompanied him to south Baghdad, into the Arab area. I didn’t know Arabic. Arabs only teased me. They would talk but I did not know what they meant; they would burst into laughter at me. I stayed among Arabs for two years. Two years I was among Arabs and then I came back. My husband would leave during the day and return home at night. Well, my home was returned to Kirkuk we came back to Kirkuk. We built a house. We settled in it. When we went into the house, then world became nice to us. We had our son get married. Two drums and two hornpipes were playing at his wedding party. Rashid Arf sang there and the party was very delightful. Well, I had charok on me and bare-footed was stamping. We had prepared such a feast, fifteen to twenty big pots.

How many people had gathered there? We went to bring the bride. Her sister-in-law did not like jubilation. She said “for God’s sake, avoid jubilation when you take her out of the courtyard, we don’t like it.” I said “No, no, we won’t.” We took the bride and put her in the car and closed the door, telling others to go. Well, I returned to the courtyard and I had three nice jubilations, saying to myself “now the bride is gone.” Well, I ran back into the car and was off. The bride is short, very short. Well, we came here to have the bride get off the car. The drummer and the hornpipe player came towards us, me and my sister-in-law. I said “for God’s sake, let’s not take the bride’s hand or she will be embarrassed.” My sister-in-law said “why?” I said “because the bride is this short and we both are like camels this tall.” Well, I called “girls, girls, come and take the bride’s hand, we are tired, me and my sister-in-law can’t accompany the bride.” I said let her not feel that we left her because of this reason or it’s a pity for her. Well, they held the bride’s hand and took her inside. Well, the clapping and dancing started, it was such a delight.

Researcher: The bride also did not have the wedding dress in western fashion that time?

Dilbar: No, no. It was only the Kurdish clothes.

Researcher: And a mule for carrying the bride and mirror to put in front of the bride, these belonged not to your time but a period before your time, right?

Dilbar: No, no. At my time there were cars. But there was still the mirror, which people danced with in front of the bride. We held the mirror for the bride; its back to us and its front to the bride, a big mirror. We held the mirror and danced with it until we took the bride to the courtyard. If there was a chair, we would seat the bride on it; otherwise, we would put two pillows and had the bride sit on them.

Researcher: Aunt Dilbar, did they give you home appliances? What did they give you as their bride?

Dilbar: Well, they put a carpet under our feet, it was so small, only a piece; we were this way over this uncovered ground, in the middle of winter. There were pillows and a quilt and that was all. My mother-in-law said, “turn off the lantern. We don’t have oil. “They even had our lantern turned off. And as for the cupboard, they made it from the lid of a Ra’i oil container. Well, I put my clothes in it. I put the clothes I had at my father’s home and those bought for me in that container and took it to my husband’s home. Well, I didn’t have any box. We, ourselves, had three boxes in my father’s home but when I went to the home of my father-in-law, the box was my mother-in-law’s and she did not let me approach it. When we came back from Baghdad and we built our own house with bricks, I had some gold; I sold it and bought a taxi with it. The taxi worked and led us to the 1970s. Then in 1970s, my husband was employed by the government then our situation improved.