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Arab bride for fortnight
- Sheikhs look for child partners for fixed term in Hyderabad

Hyderabad, Oct. 23: Arab sheikhs seeking child brides from Hyderabad no longer whisk them away to the Gulf.

They now marry them for a fixed term sometimes as short as 15 days during which they co-habit with the girls at their parents’ homes or city hotels, police say. Then they fly back home alone.

Some of the abandoned girls are sold to brothels, here or in Mumbai, by Hyderabad’s army of marriage brokers, social activists allege.

The entire arrangement sometimes costs a sheikh as little as Rs 75,000, the police said after arresting two men from Sharjah and an alleged broker this month, and detaining the parents of the prospective child brides.

According to activists and the police, the “fixed-term matrimony” racket began in the past few years after the Gulf countries banned their citizens from bringing home minor foreign brides.

It’s all done with the consent of the parents, who keep half the money while the rest goes to the marriage brokers, said social activist Jameela Niswhat. The brokers, she said, use a portion of the money to pay off the police, politicians, travel agents, hotel owners and fake qazis who are part of the racket.

Police sources said at least 38 contract marriages had taken place in Hyderabad between mid-September and mid-October, “taking advantage of the Telangana agitation that kept the police busy”. Social activists claim that local police are often paid off.

Sometimes, however, a dispute over payment bursts into the open, as one did on October 11, leading to the arrests. Officers said Sayeed Hilal Hamoodi, 46, and Mohd Sheikh Abdul, 51, had arrived a fortnight earlier seeking a bride each and contacted auto driver Abdul Aziz, who doubled as a marriage broker.

Aziz took them to the home of Mahmood Miyan who had married one daughter off to an Arab a few months ago and was ready to do so with another. However, a noisy quarrel broke out when the broker and the parents demanded Rs 75,000 while the prospective groom refused to pay more than Rs 50,000. Suspicious neighbours called the police.

Officers said this was Hamoodi’s fourth trip to Hyderabad and that he had earlier married three minor girls for fixed periods, the last time being in June this year. Some Muslim leaders, though, accuse the media of making a mountain out of a molehill and defaming the community.

Since the 1970s, Hyderabad has been a happy hunting ground for Gulf Arabs seeking young, virgin brides. The lid came off the racket in the early 1990s when an alert air hostess rescued a weeping pre-teen, Ameena, from her 60-year-old Arab husband on a flight out of Hyderabad.

In the Gulf, too, atrocities on the girls by their husbands hit the headlines and attracted international condemnation, prompting the ban on minor foreign brides.

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