girl and fire

As a young girl, Mahtab’s biggest fear was that her father would force her to marry a man she did not like, as he had done to her sister. Her sister was very unhappy in her marriage. And when Mahtab was eighteen years old her fear was realized.

Her father forced her to marry his friend’s son. He was an illiterate youth and Mahtab didn’t like him at all. She sobbed and begged her father to allow her to continue her education, but he paid no attention and three months later she was married according to the customs and traditions of Afghan society.

Two months after the wedding, the couple started fighting. There was no affection between them and Mahtab was forced to live with an illiterate man who did not understand or care about her feelings. Many times she went to her father and told him that she could not live with this man. But her father blamed her and returned her to her husband.

Mahtab could not bear her life with this husband so she set herself on fire with fuel. She didn’t know that a harder fate than death awaited her. She was saved but a large percentage of her body burned. Her husband then divorced her and married another girl.

She had some plastic surgery, but she never gained back her previous health. She is alive and must now listen to people’s harsh and ugly words. Worst of all, she never achieved her dreams. She was not able to even finish high school, although her dream had been to become a doctor.

Forced marriage is one of Afghanistan’s biggest social problems. Families fail to consider the daughter’s wishes for her own future. This can lead to dangerous consequences for the women forced into these situations, including arguments, divorce, physical abuse, running away from home, self-destruction, and, most horrific of all, self-immolation.

Mahtab’s story is just one of hundreds of similar stories in Afghanistan.

By Zahra M.

Photo: Mohammad Ismail / Reuters