Misery By Superstitious Tradition

Today I suffer from a traditional, superstitious ceremony that happened when my daughter was born. When a new baby boy first enters the grandmother’s room, she calls out for a candidate for his marriage. 

When I came home from the hospital with my newborn daughter, we lived in the same house with my mother-in-law, which is a common tradition for newlywed couples. My mother-in-law came to greet me. She kissed the new baby, my one-and-a-half-year-old son, my husband, and me.

At the same time my brother-in-law’s son entered our home. My mother-in-law immediately shouted, “Congratulations to my grandchildren who are now candidates to each other!” 

Then she called all of our family members and distributed sweets. She was so happy for having decided this nomination.

It was a crazy act. “My God, what nonsense,” I thought. I was not able to tolerate this nomination, but it was shameful for me to raise my voice to tell her that it was not a good idea and actually very bad for our children’s future. What if they didn’t love or even like each other?

After decades of war in Afghanistan, we have gone through many changes in our lives. My brother-in-law’s family went to Switzerland and we went to Pakistan. After ten years, we came back to our homeland. Following a life of hardship from our migration, returning home to our country, and reconstructing our house, I have accepted all the challenges and rebuilt my life. 

My daughter graduated from twelfth grade and recently went to India for a month to learn computer and English skills. I was very happy about this opportunity for her.

My brother, who lives in the Netherlands, has been so happy about our children’s education that he will support them for the rest of their education if they come to the Netherlands. However, I have to find an agency or organization in the Netherlands to write official invitation letters for them.

So recently I have been looking forward to finding internships for my daughter to continue her English and computer skills. She wants to get her Bachelor of Business Administration degree.

Then, suddenly, my brother-in-law’s family contacted us to ask for my daughter’s engagement to their son, the plan nominated in childhood by the grandmother!

My daughter cannot accept it. She doesn’t agree with the marriage idea. She cries and cries, and asks us, “What does it mean?  Why has Grandmother made this problem?”

I have no words to explain. I just said it is a cultural custom. But now I must worry about her future.

My mother-in-law is very strict about keeping her promise and she encourages my brother-in-law’s son to enforce this marriage. I cannot watch my daughter’s tears. I asked my husband to discuss it with his family, but unfortunately they will not agree to dismiss the marriage. Although my daughter cries, my mother-in-law said that is nothing; she will be happy when she is married. We can delay the marriage for now so my daughter can finish her education. But culturally it is unacceptable for my mother-in-law to drop her nomination. They have encouraged their son since childhood in this marriage and he loves my daughter. But my daughter does not like him and doesn’t love him.

So what can I do? I must find scholarships for my daughter and also for my son. My daughter cannot go alone to the Netherlands because it will raise more questions from my mother-in law’s family, but my son and daughter can go together. My brother is very sad about the forced marriage and he will take them both and support their residence and education. But we still must get official invitation letters from an agency or organization in the Netherlands.

By Mariam

Photo by Carolyn I.


  1. Allison Walker says:

    I hope that you will find some way of stopping all this marriage fuss and getting your children to the Netherlands. In America, we would tell the Grandma to “mind her own business, the marriage decisions are up to your granddaughter and her family!” However, I know that if you said anything of that nature you would regret it. But I really wish you had some power over these marriage proceedings.

  2. My prayers are with you that you get the documentation you need for your children to go to the Netherlands.

  3. Dear Mariam jaan:

    I fully understand your problem and I am sorry that still in 2012 we suffer from ignorance ideology of forced marriages in Afghanistan. But I want to tell you that by no means, never let your daughter to marry by force. Find possible solutions, fight for her rights, If you stand up and say no as a mother no body can do any thing. She has her own choice for her future and now she knows what is right what is wrong. You are in my prayers I hope by ignoring such situations we bring a change for the future generation. Be strong…. Be strong.

  4. Mary Stachyra says:

    I admire your courage in fighting for your daughter’s best interests. Please keep us updated. And thank you for sharing; I had never heard about this custom until today. Keep writing and speaking up, and perhaps one day this practice will be a thing of the past.

  5. Be strong and fight: women CAN win the world’s ignorance
    hugs from Italy :)

  6. Suzanne Scarfone says:

    Dearest Mariam,
    I have faith that you will prevail and that your beautiful daughter and son will be in the Netherlands studying and finding their own paths in life.

  7. Crystal Keshawarz says:

    Salaam wa Dorood ba shoma Mariam Jan,
    Sometimes I have found that the best way to work around these cultural norms is to sit the family down and discuss things in a manner in which will appeal to their senses. What makes most sense to Afghans? Islam. So I would ask my family to sit and discuss a verse from the Quran. There are verses in the Quran that specifically state that forced marriage is FORBIDDEN. It is Haram. Clearly point this out, as well as verses that deal with the importance of choice, as well as education. Don’t even bring up your daughter. Or their son. Just gather everyone together, bring a trusted family member or friend who is highly versed in the Quran and respected by your family. Have that person basically sermonize your whole family. And also, there is a verse in the Quran that specifically forbids believing in superstitions and likens them to witchcraft. That ought to bring the point home in a BIG way. I hope this helps.

    Your Little Sister in America

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