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Forced Marriage, a Dilemma Not only for Girls

A letter from eastern Afghanistan
Haseeb Salarzai in Farrah
Sunday 8 August 2010

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At a slum in the outskirts of Farah city, 42-year-old Jalil Khan stands motionless as police wraps his young brother’s body in a white cloth.

Evidence showed that his brother was brutally killed, handcuffed and his legs bound. Tears roll down his cheeks as he sighs and says “Why can’t he have the right to marry who he wants to and reject when he doesn’t want to?”

His brother, Shafi Mohammad, 22, left Zabul two years ago to avoid a marriage that was arranged by his parents when he was aged two.
Khan said , “ Shafi liked someone else and wanted marry her ”

Shafi ran away with the girl he loved, both to avoid the pressure he was under from his former fiancé’s family and to marry the girl he loved. The Local Police has no lead in connection with the murder, although Khan claims his brother didn’t have any enemies, except for his former fiancé’s family. Khan said “they beat him badly when he refused to talk about marriage.”

Arranged marriage is common, but widely popular in the Southern Afghanistan.

It is believed that more than half of the marriages in Afghanistan are forced. For many obvious reasons, no doubt, young girls are often the ones coerced into a marriage against their will and under physical or emotional duress; but it shouldn’t be automatically perceived that it only happens to women. Young boys are too are victims of this oppressive tradition. Many, when they grow up, silently follow through with the promise their parents have made, but some suffer severe consequences, like Shafi.

Not only it is considered a shame to refuse, but it also scars the reputation of the rejected party, and it will cause animosity between families that can only be solved through revenge.

Qari Sher Agha, a local tribe elder, believes once you are engaged you have to marry the girl. It is your job to maintain her dignity. It’s your duty as a Pashtun.

Agha said, “She becomes your ‘Namoos’, once her name is connected with you.’’

‘’ A real Pashtun has to die or kill, whatever it takes to preserve it’’, Agha added.

Photo by Robert Maier

Forum posts

  • My condolences go to Jalil Khan and his family for their loss. It is tragic that no one in any authority could have mandated a solution that could’ve spared his brother’s life and saved face for the fiancee and her family. Since I read the about this tragic incident, I have always wondered if things may not have turned out better if Mr. Khan’s family had offered to pay or augment the dowry for the fiancee as though she were a daughter to give her a better advantage for a future betrothal. What shame would there be for her and her family if they affirmed her value that way?

    Marrying for love has been a recent luxury for only a few centuries in the West, and there is still pressure among affluent and aristocratic families to marry among their own kind. Often, in times and areas of economic uncertainty, families forge economic connections through marriage. Such was the case in my own family a few generations ago. For that reason, I sincerely hope others look upon the underlying cultural and economic circumstances with compassion rather than judgment. More and better economic opportunities will give people more choices where families aren’t led to such desperation.

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