Wedding photographer praised for trying to stop marriage of girl aged 15 in Turkey

Child Marriage Turkey
15% of girls in Turkey are married by the age of 18, according to UNICEF figures (UNICEF)

Child marriage, Girls' education, Right to education

A photographer was hailed a hero after trying to stop a man from marrying a 15-year-old girl amid concerns over rising numbers of child marriages in Turkey.

Onur Albayrak, a wedding photographer, was employed to take photographs at a wedding on July 5 in the eastern Turkish province of Malatya.

But when he saw the bride at Malatya’s Turgut Özal Nature Park, he noticed she was very young and trembling with fear, according to one of Turkey’s largest newspapers, the Hurriyet Daily News.

After learning the bride was only 15, Albayrak tried to stop the wedding and broke the groom’s nose in an ensuing scuffle.

On his Facebook page, Albayrak wrote: “Child bride is also child abuse”, adding that he hoped such an incident would not happen again. 

He was praised for his actions. Yasmeen Hassan, global executive director of campaign group Equality Now, said despite the fact that Turkey has a minimum age of 18 for marriage more girls were being wed and described the photographer’s stand as “epic”.

“Very often for social reasons people don’t want to make a scene so I am really happy he did this. He should be hailed as a hero – we need more people like this,” Hassan told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

I am happy to have raised awareness about this problem. I have had messages from more than 100 wedding venues who promised to no longer organise any weddings in which there are child brides. Onur Albayrak, talking to Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News

“I hope the authorities have taken notice and are prosecuting the groom.”

According to data from the United Nations’ children’s agency UNICEF, Turkey has one of the highest rate of child marriage rate in Europe. UNICEF figures show that 1% of girls in Turkey get married before 15 and 15% by age 18.

Child marriage rates have fallen but about 12 million girls a year are still married before 18 often with devastating consequences for their health and education. Ending the practice by 2030 is among the United Nations’ global goals.

Girls Not Brides, that campaigns against child marriage, said the crisis in Syria and influx of refugees into Turkey and other neighbouring countries had caused a dramatic rise in the number of child marriages. 

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