to Gardez, 3-4 April 2005|
While at Zurmat, a Marine there told Obai
and me about one of his young ANA soldiers who had recently gone AWOL. The young
man had returned home on pass to find his 18-year-old girlfriend had been
married off to a 37-year-old man by her parents. It broke his heart so much he
couldnít return to duty.
As in many parts of the world, arranged marriages are
the norm here, and the young man was swimming upstream thinking his marriage
would be different. Obai told us more about arranged marriages in
For one thing, the practice isnít entirely bad. It assures
that all women will be taken care of, and helps join two families toward greater
mutual strength. The wishes of the young woman may be taken into account, but
certainly not with veto power over such a critically practical matter.
The Marine expressed much sympathy for his Afghan
soldier. Playing devilís advocate, I asked him to consider that while we do have
freedom of choice when marrying in America, we also have a 50% divorce rate. I
wondered what the divorce rate was here. Obai
then told us that though love may be unimportant in marriage in
Thatís because for a husband to divorce his wife means
calamity for her. She is now ďspoiled,Ē certainly no longer a virgin, and
could probably not remarry. Then who would care for her? Where would she live?
So everyone understands that if the husband does not have good reason to
divorce his wife, he can justifiably be sought and killed by his wife's brothers, cousins, or uncles.
I donít remember Obai telling us if a wife can divorce
her husband. Probably not, except in extenuating circumstances. Checking the web
just now, found this: http://pz.rawa.org/rawa/womenstill.htm
A few weeks after the trip, on 25 Apr 05, I heard this at breakfast from two
MPRI contractors, ie,
reliable sources, about a tragic incident in a rural area up north.
The men at the table said this was not the first
stoning, and demonstrates how strong the ancient traditions remain in Afghanistan
in the 21st century.
One of the MPRI men added something interesting. They
have a number of interpreters, some of whom are young men in their twenties,
college educated, knowledgeable about the West. He said a surprising number of them want their
wives to not only be virgins, but to ďnever have even been seen by another man
before. Itís as if they want their wives to have grown up in a covered cage since they
were little girls. If the young and educated feel this way, how long will it
take until women get out of the burka over here?Ē
For more about hardships of women in Afghanistan, hereís a report about the girl in that famous National Geographic cover
next: Random Thoughts