Women in Afghanistan usually don’t have smiles on their faces. They are taught not to laugh; they are told laughing is not right for women. Society says you are not a good woman if you laugh loudly or even smile. You will bring disrespect onto your family, your father and brothers. Society will not respect your father because people will say of him, “you cannot control your wife or daughter.”
Also, Afghan women cannot find many opportunities to laugh. Many Afghan women are still affected by wars. Some have lost their fathers, brothers, husbands and other relatives; in some cases, they don’t know if their relatives or alive or not. How can they laugh?
During happy events that we celebrate in Afghanistan, like Eid or a wedding, instead of smiles on every face, there are tears in every eye. Women wish that their fathers and brothers could be with them at this happy occasion.
And when Afghan women see one another after many years of migration, instead of smiling, their eyes are tear-filled because they feel lucky to see each other after many years. They feel lucky to be alive and to have found an opportunity to be together.
And when they arrive at a new environment, instead of being happy, they cry, because how can they be happy when their families are in danger and not safe?
And when they marry, instead of smiling because they are beginning a new life, they cry since they are leaving the home of their parents, and they don’t know if they will be happy with this person who they must marry by arrangement, and they have no idea how to start a new family. They are fully afraid of their future.
When an Afghan woman laughs, it is not from the heart. When she smiles, it is always with tears in her eyes. An Afghan woman even celebrates with tears. When something happens to her that is good, even then she cannot laugh, because the wings of her flight have been already cut.
photo by Lana Selzik