Today was one of those days that makes me love my work. The team had decided to visit one of our contacts who is a mullah/imam/leader of a Muslim mosque to pay our respects. His brother had died a month ago and it is the proper thing to do. Unfortunately, when the time came one of my team mates had spots all over his body from a silly virus and the other had stomach problems. So I went with Mohammed to the house attached to the little mosque.
We were greeted by the mullah and his two tiny daughters. We met one woman and then his wife. After we were settled with glasses of water and cushions to lean against, Mohammed expressed our sadness at the loss of his brother. Then the cake with tea and bowls of watermelon came out of the kitchen . The two women sat down against the wall on the other side of the room to listen. The conversation went back and forth: Kurdish, English, English, Kurdish. Then M. looked at me and said, " this woman is his second wife. They were married six months ago". I could tell they all were looking at me for my reaction. I smiled and put my hand over my heart. They smiled back.
We talked about fundraising; how CPT gets its money. Does it get government funding for rent or food? M. said that we did not and then went on to explain how individuals give money to CPT for our work. I asked M. to tell him about my fundraising suppers and they were thrilled by that idea. They asked what kinds of Kurdish food I had prepared and were suitably impressed. However, they thought that if they tried such a thing here- make a meal and then tell people they had to pay for it- they would never come back!
After more conversation I decided to be bold. I asked if I could ask the women some questions. They agreed readily. So I told them about how I had been the daughter of a Christian pastor (mullah) and sometimes my mother found it hard to be the wife of a pastor. I asked them how it was for them and if they found that the community expected them to be better than most women. They both agreed that it was good to be the mullah's wives. They did feel higher expectations, but explained that they knew he was in that position when they agreed to marry him. They all played and cared for the little girls while they talked.
I have never really had occasion to think about polygamy. But it did not matter at this point. We were talking and sharing our stories together. Mulah asked me about my husband and children. I explained that now my marriage was unusual in my culture, with me being here for 1/2 the year. He listened well to my story of how we came to the agreement that I was to do this work here in Iraqi Kurdistan.
But, I thought to myself, "hmm. right now Vic (my husband) has 1/2 a wife and right now the mullah has 2x ."
Before we left, I had agreed to come back to their house to learn how to make Kurdish bread and cake from the wives. The idea is quite exciting, but so stretching to think of spending a whole day with my limited Kurdish and their lack of English. But I promised to bring my dictionary and I think we will do well.