August 18, 2010

Channel4: In Afghanistan, this bride - a rape victim - and her groom had to overcome prejudice and abuse

A video could not be found. Please contact technical support for further assistance.

Channel4: In Afghanistan, this bride - a rape victim - and her groom had to overcome prejudice and abuse


Story Transcript

Channel 4 News correspondent Kylie Morris blogs.

I’ve been to a few Afghan wedding celebrations. As you’d expect, they’re full of joy, music and dancing; and way too much food. No change there, then. But, in other respects, they’re also deeply unfamiliar. No displays of intimacy. Little evidence of any closeness shared by the bride and groom. And separate parties for the sexes.

So, in the ladies’ room: lots of sparkly make-up, and the most glamorous costumes worn by girls and women of all ages. No alcohol. Some optional hashish smoking by older women. And the only possible male presence, the musicians, and boys too young to leave their mothers.

In the men’s room, not so much make-up, but certainly the best of clothes. Lots of music, men dancing with one another, and the only possible female presence are any Western women guests who have a kind of honorary third sex status.

All of this to explain why the wedding of Samia and Nuria is remarkable. It’s not the women drummers. Almost unimaginably, men and women dancing together. Even the bride and groom. And their story is remarkable.

Faramarz is a security guard in a women’s refuge. In fact, the refuge in Kabul where Samia, his new bride, had sought solace and safety.

She had been kidnapped and gang-raped by eight armed men, in a district near Sar-e-Pul, hundreds of miles north west of the Afghan capital. Her father had lodged an official complaint with the authorities. But its only effect was to prompt death threats from the gang, led by a local warlord.

The family was forced to leave their farm, and their livelihood behind, and flee to the relative safety of Kabul. Once there, Samia sought and found refuge. In that she was unusual – many young women turn to self harm or suicide. Others are killed by their own families who can’t bear the shame.

And there the story would normally end. Samia had lost her honour in her tribe, and in her community. Custom dictates she would never marry, forever paying the price for the crime against her.

But, Samia defied convention.

She met Faramarz – and fell in love with a man, unique in his compassion for her. At 22, he broke taboos few would dare challenge. Not only did he marry Faramarz, but he defends her right to demand justice and condemns those who committed the crimes against her.

It is a huge step for them both. But in the wider scheme of Afghanistan’s persistent repression of women, trenchantly resistant to external pressure for change, it is a small story of liberation on the margins.