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