I was teaching a literacy class in Farah Province for 25 women over the age of 15 when one of my students invited me to her house for her wedding. On the wedding day I arrived at her family’s house. When I walked inside the room was hot and crowded because they were a poor family without enough space for all the guests. The house was very noisy. There were a few women sat along one side of the house singing local songs to show their happiness.
The time arrived for the groom’s family to pick up the bride and bring her to his home. The bride’s family had provided a dowry for their daughter, and these items were placed in a car standing next to the gate. It was about 4 p.m. Everyone said, “Now the bride is coming out to go with her husband.” Many women covered themselves with burqas and went outside, but I waited to see the bride go by.
Finally, the room became nearly empty. I asked a woman beside me, “Auntie, can you tell me when the bride came out, because I did not see her. I saw no bride in a beautiful white dress. Did you see her?”
The woman laughed. “My daughter, we are from the villages. We do not like to dress our brides in these long dresses with no sleeves.”
“Okay, Auntie, but I did not see any woman who looked at all like a bride.”
“My daughter,” she said. “Come with me. I will show you where she is now.”
I went outside with her and saw a car decorated with a few flowers, and then I saw a man who held the arm of a woman under a burqa. They both got into the car.
“Did you see the bride now, or not?” the woman asked me.
I still did not see my student, my bride. “No. Where is she?”
“Look at those two—the man and the woman together.”
“Ohh, I see,” I said. “But why should she be under a burqa today? She has only this day to start her life with happiness. Why should she be hidden under a burqa even on her wedding day?”
“This is our traditional and we respect it,” the woman told me.
I began to ask questions. “Why do you not want to hide the men under a burqa? Is it because they are men and all problems should be suffered by women?”
The lady said, “I do not like the burqa either, but I have to wear it because my family does not want anyone to see my face. I know it is very difficult to be under a burqa in hot weather, and it is very difficult to be under a burqa on a wedding day. A woman can have only one wedding and it should be spent nicely, not in jail.”
As a woman, I could feel how hard it must be for this bride. Every woman has lots of dreams for her wedding, but this bride spent her wedding day invisible to all. Nobody could see her happiness or her smile. She may have dreamed of wearing a long bridal gown. Instead, she had to start her new life sweating beneath an ordinary blue burqa in the hot weather of her wedding day.