Monday, July 03, 2006


Late last week a friend of mine called me, apologizing for not being
in touch. He'd been helping me with my visa process, and as the
current one runs out on July 15th he is accustomed to giving me daily
updated on the extension process and letting me know what I need to do next. I hadn't heard from him in three or four days and there was a good reason why.

One of his friend's daughter's had run away and gotten married. Her
family is extremely conservation and despite wearing full burka (the
black, tent-like get up) and being kept in purdah (seclusion from
males other than family members) somehow she managed to meet a guy and decided to run off with him. One of my friends told me she met her husband when he dialed a wrong number and ended up with her at the other end. He kept calling her back, and she was "fascinated with his voice." They pursued their romance solely on the telephone, without meeting, for over a year, until she finally snuck out to meet him in person. Two years after that her parents finally gave in to letting her marry him, as he was of a lower caste. It's possible that the same sort of situation may have happened with the runaway girl.

Two days after their marriage, signed in the mosque and everything,
the girl had moved in with the boys' family and refused to come home
at her parents' request. She said she was happier there and with her
new husband she would remain. You might be thinking, good for her,
she's escaped her seclusion and made a choice on her own, but the
problem here is not just that the girl ran away and eloped, but the
fact that she is only fourteen years old. She can't sign a legal
marriage contract (nikka) without her parents' consent.

This then makes her marriage eligible to be tried against the Hudood
ordinances, which would leave both her and her husband charged with
adultery: sex outside marriage. This is punishable by the death
sentence, if enraged and dishonored family members don't murder the
guilty parties previous. There is such a strong concept of family
honor and shame based around women, that fathers or brothers have been known to brutally kill their own daughters and sisters in situations like these. If the girl has been married illegally, and the marriage consummated, or the girl has even been touched by the man, she is considered as spoiled. Damaged goods. The prospects of her family marrying her off are slim, unless she is attractive and they can put up a sizeable dowry. Her action ruins the reputation of the entire family, and sometimes people see the only way of preserving their honor to be killing the culprit, usually the girl. Thankfully, in this family the parents fought hard to get their daughter back and as far as I know are open minded enough to allow her to live and carry on with her studies.

Every day I read in the newspaper here about strange murders and honor killings. Last week I read about a man who suspected his wife of having an affair with her cousin. He not only killed her but also her aunt and one of her friends in a fit of rage. He had no proof, just a nagging suspicion. Men like this are unlikely to be arrested and tried, for the mullahs support their actions against their "shameful" wives.

14 years old, running away to a new life. Sick of the burka. Sick of seclusion. Ready to find out about the world of boys and men. Running away and getting married. 14 years old.

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