The Problem of Love Marriages


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.


  1. Elizabeth Titus says:

    Dear Seeta,
    This story is so shocking! You are so skilled that I thought the mother had actually come around and agreed. Then, the utter shock of what was beneath the white fabric… hideous, cruel, insane. How can it even be true, I wonder. But of course, it is true. And it must end. You are paving the way for change.

  2. Dear Seeta: This is a horrifying story, so grisly, so deeply frightening. Reading this story is enough to send cold terror through every bone and tissue. It is very hard to imagine life where love, and choosing one’s love partner, could lead to this kind of slaughter. I am praying that these draconian strictures on marriage and love can wither and fall away. For as you write: “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.” I hope more and more couples can enjoy the lives of their choosing, full of love and peace. Stacy

  3. Dear Seeta,
    What a tragic love story! Although I’m sure it was hard on your emotionally to write about this, you have done a great service by putting it out for the world to read about. You have been a good witness to history. My prayer is that this practice of killing young women who want to marry for love will soon become a part of history, never to be repeated. Blessings on you and all whom you love.

  4. Jessica says:

    Dear Seeta-
    Sometimes I find it amazing that the world can at once feel so small and yet carry such huge differences and within those differences, great burdens. I hope that these kinds of terrible happenings can, as another commentor wrote, become a part of history never to be repeated. Keep writing, keep feeling deeply.
    best wishes,

  5. Suzanne Scarfone says:

    Dearest Seeta,
    You do a beautiful job of relating this horrific story in full detail. Each of your drafts brought you closer to, what is now, a gut-wrenching and unforgettable piece. Thank you for your courage.

  6. Seeta — This is such a powerful and shocking story! I didn’t want to read it but I knew I needed to know the horrible truth. I hope, as others have said, that this will become a part of history rather than reality in the near future. Thank you for your courage in taking on this difficult topic. Love, Nancy

  7. A stunningly shocking and provocative story. When a mother can do that to her own child, what hope is there? Let’s hope we can make a world in which mothers can defend their children, not go along with the horrible prohibitions of “custom,” the cover for a multitude of crimes. Thank you, Seeta, for having the courage to write this.

  8. Seeta,
    What a powerful story. You illustrated the plight of these outdated customs by such strong storytelling. Amazing story. Thank you for writing this.

  9. Dear Seeta,
    Your story brought tears to my eyes. How can this be? How could a father and brothers do this to their sister? How could “love” be considered a crime? Love the way you rendered the story, I was hoping for the best…
    In light,

  10. Renata says:

    I’m totally shocked! The things you wrote seem to be part of a horror story. How can it be possible a father and a brother to kill a person who belongs to their own family? What kind of tradition is it in which love takes to death? I’m very touched by this story… I’m deeply sad by the fact it is a real story and not a fiction one.

  11. Dear Seeta
    Hope you remember somethings that you forgot.

  12. Dear Bad-G
    Hope you remember somethings that you forgot about love!!

  13. Dear all,
    I am in love with an Afghan man…..he lives in England while I am in America, but the distance is not the problem, the problem is that he is promised to another family since he was 15 years old and he doesn’t know who the girl will be…. i am heartbroken, as we both have strong feelings for each other and he explained that these are traditions and it would be a dishonor for the family if the marriage doesn’t happen. Can someone explain me how this tradition work, thank you


  1. […] While Afghan women have not produced spoken word poetry of the level of Rachel or Rafeef, the project Afghan Women’s Writing is conceived to remedy just that. It’s first and foremost a project to give women a voice, in the form of short stories, poems or essays. That in itself is valuable, but I’m sure a few will be encouraged to develop artistically and add to the literary landscape of the country. Hard to read is an entry about love and marriage in Afghanistan: […]

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