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This story contains mature content that may not be suitable for all audiences. Viewer discretion is advised. Just walking around the shopping arcade across from the main shrine I've come across multiple marriage offices. We've come here because of increasing concerns among Iraqi Shias that some clerics are abusing an ancient marriage practice to exploit women and girls.
I have to be discreet filming this, but we are here to investigate allegations that some of the clerics here are grooming women and even acting like pimps. There are no reliable statistics about how often this custom is actually used today; it's illegal under Iraqi law. But some clerics say there are occasions when it is appropriate. This is cleric Faris Al-Moussawi.
He runs a marriage office in Sadr City, another Shia area of Baghdad. A dowry is paid to the woman upfront and a time limit is set. For example, I could pay a woman a dowry of 1, dinars to become my wife for one month.
And if she has children, he is supporting them. It's merely an agreement for sex in return for money. But if it is based on religious rules that society accepts, then it is halal, just like marriage.
It's been estimated that there are more than a million widows in Iraq and more than , children who've lost parents. Now everything is destroyed. She says her father died when she was 12, and her family was left destitute. By the time she was 13, she was already married and divorced. Then a man offered her a pleasure marriage. He convinced me and said he would look after me. Rosul says a cleric from Kadhimiya did the ceremony and that she didn't understand what she was getting into.