It wasn’t an official wedding, but it looked like one. Women and girls gathered around the 17-year-old bride the night before for a traditional henna party; men accompanied the groom as he went to his fiancée’s house to take her to their new home. There was music, tables covered with food and everyone wore their best clothes. The role of religion in these early marriages is complex. While no imam is present, the use of the Qoran as a religious prop suffices to give the ceremony symbolic value, earn the acceptance of the local community, and “seal” the marriage, even before it is officially registered with the authorities. Indeed these practices persist due to a complex combination of motivations - including traditional social norms, such as the importance attached to marriage and motherhood for women, and socio-economic factors, such as poverty.
Getting married at 17
Beauty parlors are part of Azerbaijan’s popular culture. They dot villages and towns, ranging from simple, single rooms to flashy, larger salons, and provide services ranging from a manicure to a chat over tea, from a haircut to a discussion about politics. They are, however, strictly gendered.
Azerbaijan’s Segregated Salons
Once a year, 83-year-old Azerbaijani Bayram Allazov travels from his house a few hours outside of Baku to the hills of southern Georgia for a look back in time. From the village of Irganchai, he tries to see the location in neighboring Armenia, just three kilometers away, that he still considers home. But the effort inevitably fails.
Kerkenj: Looking Back at Armenia
The majority of marriages in Azerbaijan are also Islamic marriages. Early marriages are conducted by local Mullahs and in spite of agreements between the Islamic Council and the state, these are often not officially recorded as is legally required.
Azerbaijan: Getting Married at 17
Despite barriers to travelling to Azerbaijan, Baku has become a popular stop for people escaping the Russian war in Ukraine.