A forced marriage is one of the most cruel and unfair acts that can be imposed on a girl. It can bring harm to both families and it happened to Khadija, a girl from my neighborhood. When she was fourteen years old, she was told she would have to marry an illiterate man of forty.
At the time, she was still going to school. After the engagement, she used to cry every single day for the bad luck that had befallen her. She had not met the man, not even during the engagement, and the only reason that Khadija’s family agreed to marry her was that the man offered a large dowry.
When she got married, she had to move from Kabul, the city where she grew up, to Samangan, a small village in northern Afghanistan, far away from her family, away from her relatives, away from everyone she ever knew. She tried to convince her heart that it was her destiny. She tried to live a happy life with the man, but she wanted to continue her education, finish school, and become someone despite the marriage.
Khadija had been the best student at her school and she was well known for her knowledge. Her new husband was illiterate. He refused to let her finish school, saying it did not follow local tradition. This was only the beginning of her struggles. He said that when a girl marries, she cannot continue education or a career; she has to stay in the kitchen or in the house all of the time. Her husband forbade her to go outside the house. She would not be allowed to visit her mother or go to her brother’s house. She would not be allowed to go shopping.
He beat her with his belt. He told her she must do what he liked and follow his orders. He demanded that she be his slave because he had bought her for a lot of money from her parents.
She felt like she was a burden. When she was about eighteen, she gave in to her soul and committed suicide. Khadija had dreams, big dreams. She did not want to marry at that young age. She did not know what the future would bring, but being a free girl, and a carefree girl, being imprisoned in the house led her to kill herself.
What happened to Khadija is common in some parts of Afghanistan. Her father now deeply regrets marrying his daughter at a young age to a man who would never care about her happiness. But the regrets came too late.
Photo: Eric Kanalstein / UNAMA
Dear Sweeta: Thank you for sharing this story. We have to hear it. We have to witness Khadija’s life and her struggle, even when it hurts us to do so. I have to believe that she is in a better place now. I have to believe that we can all learn from this tragedy and do what we can to prevent similar harm from happening again. Thank you again for sharing her story. Stacy
Your telling this tragic story is so important. And you did it wonderfully. Thank you for your voice.
Dear Sweeta — This is a heartbreaking story. Thank you for sharing your voice and Kahadija’s incredible sorrow with us. Love and peace, Nancy
I cannot even begin to tell you the rage that I feel when I hear stories like this. Can you tell me what is being done, if anything, regarding the education of the men? I know there’s always a lot of education for women, but what about the perpetrators?
Dear Sweeta, I have learned so much from reading this piece. Thank you for your amazing writing and for educating me on the tragedy that faces so many women.
I commend you for your bravery and diligence towards fighting for a cause that never seems to be given enough attention. When one stands for a cause, it is of utmost importance that no matter what the cause may be, they voice their opinion. Thank you for being one of the few who is willing to spread the word about such issues. In situations like this, there are more witnesses than victims and as a witness, it is vital to make others aware of the reality of the circumstance. Furthermore, I appreciate your brutal honesty about the dreadful condition of Khadija. It has helped me, as a high school student living in a vastly different environment, learn more about the lives of many women in Afghanistan. Once again, I applaud you for your work as a spectator of this crime and for telling a story that needs to be told.
This is a very heartbreaking story. The title itself gave me tears. I strongly, with my whole heart, believe that child marriages and forced marriages should not be allowed and are unacceptable. Every girl has her dreams of becoming someone that would change the world, make it a better place, to achieve many achievements in life. Every girl has a chance to reach for the stars, they just need to jump. In this case, Kahadija got confined to chains, and was forcefully given to her master, her husband, just like a slave. This needs to stop immediately. Girls have more rights to make decisions about their life and their marriage than anyone else on this planet, including their parents. Kahadija’s husband abused her verbally, physically, emotionally, and even confined her entire life in that one house. Kahadija’s sorrowful story showed us one, powerful truth, that a girl forced to either marry someone they don’t know or stop their education forcefully is equal to death. Freedom to make choices is important, because girls know what is best for them and their future. Your story not only showed this one, powerful, unbearable truth, but it empowered every, single girl and woman out there, and showed them that they have every right to do want they want, and enjoy their life, because we women know what is best for us. All we need to make a positive change is to change ourselves, and the only ways we need to change ourselves are to be stronger, have big passions and have bigger dreams.
I would also like to thank you so much for sharing this story, and inspiring me to make a change. This story is very empowering, inspiring, and sorrowful. It is very courageous to write and share such an experience. Again, thank you so much for writing this story.
-Sveto: Thank you for sharing such a powerful and moving story to us. It shines light on so many important factors of Afghan life: Arranged marriages, education being prohibited, and family members effectively being “sold off.” The way Khdaija was treated reminded me all too uncannily of slavery. Being split from family, being sold for profit, being stripped of educational opportunity, and perhaps more importantly being denied all freedom are common aspects of slavery described in the textbooks of the West. People fought against slavery, ended it, and still criticize the past institution up to this very day, yet we remain blind to the treatment of Afghan women like Khadija. Thus, I’d like to thank you once again for shining light on the dark reality of the way Afghan women are being treated.