I live in Afghanistan, where people are very sensitive to the word “love.” People do have feelings of love: they can love a father, mother, sisters and brothers; they can also love their children.

But if someone truly falls in love with a girl or a boy, Afghan traditionalists cannot tolerate it. Many women and men have lost their lives because of falling in love and wanting to marry their beloved. When the younger generation looks at the traditional Afghan attitude toward love, and then they fall in love with someone, they do not know what they should to do—marry the person or leave them.

I can tell you a story of an 18-year-old girl who fell in love with a 22-year-old boy. The boy was rich and educated, and the girl was from a Pashtun family. This couple loved each other a lot. They first met in school. 

Soraya asked her lover to come to her family to offer a marriage proposal. She told him he must tell her family that they did not know each other, because if her family knew about their relationship, they would kill them both.

The boy made the proposal, and Soraya’s family rejected it. But the boy’s family was in favor of it and suddenly the boy’s mother asked why Soraya’s family would not agree if their daughter was happy with the idea of the marriage. She said that the families should leave the two young people to marry, so that their wishes could come true. The boy’s mother said, “It is their lives, not ours. We should just help them to start their lives as they want.”

Soraya’s family finally agreed to consider the proposal of marriage and said, “Okay, come tomorrow for our final answer.”

Soraya and her lover were so happy that they could hardly wait for the morning when the sunshine of the new day would give them a new life. Soraya made a new dress to wear and she was singing to herself.

The next day, when the proposal arrangers arrived at Soraya’s house, they were welcomed inside to a good room where they sat. They asked, “What is your final response to us?” Soraya’s mother, who looked worried and sad, said, “We agree to this love marriage of our daughter, Soraya. She will be the first girl to choose her partner, and we have done what should be done.”

Soraya’s mother said, “Come to me, and I will show you Soraya and her white dress.” When they went outside, they went into a yard. There was a carpet and a white piece of fabric covered the carpet. When the boy’s mother asked what it was, Soraya’s mother said, “This is Soraya, I will show you.”  When she removed the white fabric, they all cried in a loud voice, “What is this?”

The cruel mother said, “These are the pieces of Soraya’s body. She wanted to make a marriage of love, which is not allowed in my family and tribe. Her father and her brothers cut her body in small pieces as a gift for your son.”

The boy was shocked when he heard the news. He suffered a mental breakdown. He received treatment and he is better now.  But the true victim of their love was Soraya, who lost her life and did not get to wear the white dress.

So, in this country, when there is such an expensive price to be paid for falling in love, who can write about love and who can make a love marriage?

In my country, love is a shame on the family.

But, in fact, if the couple does not know each other, how can they start their life? How can they pass the days of their lives without loving each other?

Life would be very boring; men at work all day and women cleaning the house and giving birth to children. This is not a good life. There are many couples that meet for the first time on their wedding night. Very few people make love marriages, and, if they do, it is a carefully kept secret. The lives of these people are 100 percent better than those in forced marriages.

Forced marriages and arranged marriages take place in most parts of Afghanistan, but I hope these marriages will be removed from our tradition. 

By Seeta

This work was supported by the Fetzer Institute.