Thursday, March 22, 2012

Marriage among the Pashtun Diaspora in the West - Introduction

A couple of weeks ago, we had to write a paper in Arabic on any social issue that interested us. I proposed to write on marriage among Pashtuns in the West. I'll explain how it is that we get married -- and why it's really tragic -- in the next post, but for now, I just want to introduce my interest in this "tragedy." I don't think it's discussed enough among Pashtuns, particularly those who disapprove it. But they/we feel as though we're not in charge, and we don't have any power over or say in how we get married, so we keep silent, talking about it only with our Pashtun friends and not our elders who are typically the ones in charge. I'll be happy to tell stories of those of my friends who are currently suffering because of this way but have no way of getting outta the marriage because their families don't support the idea of divorce.

You see, I’ve come across many Pashtuns, both those whom I know only online and those whom I know personally, who are too frustrated with the way of marriage that I'm going to describe in upcoming posts, and I wish more Pashtuns would talk about it more openly. Importantly, I wish they'd discuss it with their parents! But then again, I understand there’s generation and culture gaps between the Pashtun youth of marriageable age and their parents. My parents are no exception. It’s difficult to sit them down to talk with them about such “delicate” matters, but I have learned that as long as you talk to them in a very respectful manner, make them understand and believe that you do not wish or intend to insult their choices, but that you are just a part of a generation of Pashtuns (and many non-Pashtuns) whose parents have different expectations for their spouses than they (the youth) do, they will lend an ear of understanding. Our parents are not stupid, and they do not lack the ability to comprehend this phenomenon. You just have to let them talk, listen to them, and then explain your own stance. My family and I have been in the U.S. for 12-13 years, and only very recently did we start communicating our frustrations with each other effectively. I think I can fairly conclude that my parents understand me and my siblings much better today than they did some two years ago, and I realize that they have made far more sacrifices in coming this far than we their children have. For this, I'll always be grateful to my parents. God bless them with a long life full of peace, happiness, and good health.

So, my suggestion to all those Pashtuns in the west (or in the east, if this applies to you, which it may) who are equally frustrated with the communication, generation, culture gaps between yourself and your parents: please talk to them. Help them understand you. They can and they will understand you, but talking about it to THEM helps much better than talking about it with those of your friends who might not at all be involved in your marriage process. I mean, it’s your parents who play the more important role in whom you marry and how you get married and where you get married than your friends do.

Because this post may get longer than I might expect, I’m going to write it in parts. This was just an Introduction to my interest in the issue. The next part will be a description of how the average Pashtun in the west gets married and what many Pashtuns and I consider to be the problem(s) with that method. Part II will discuss possible reasons for why the problem(s) exist, which entails a good understanding of the Pashtun society in Pakistan/Afghanistan. In Part III, I will propose some solutions to the existing problem(s) of marriage among Pashtuns in the diaspora (i.e., in the west).

I thank you in advance for reading and for sharing some other possible solutions that I may not discuss – or other reasons for the existence of the problem.

Up next:


  1. My parents are pretty open minded and I respect them for being that way, my grandparents aren't that bad either - I'm considerably vocal with both, but then maybe that's just because I'm male? I have no sisters so I wouldn't really know.

    Regardless I'd like to see what you've got to say - zar lika lol

  2. Interesting topic and looking forward to reading more! I like how you emphasise parents and their role in marriage (esp in South Asia and similar cultures) without letting go of the need to reconcile them with the expectations of their children. All too often the way such things are handled is to just shun parents from the marriage process altogether and hope they accept change later.

  3. Speaking from my own personal experience (I'm a non-Pashtun Pakistani), parents are not always willing to listen or understand, sadly. But I'm sure the majority of parents are not like that, and I'm glad you can communicate effectively with yours. Since I'm not at all familiar with how Pashtuns get married (in the diaspora or otherwise) I look forward to reading your next post!

  4. Thanks for your interest, guys! I'm looking forward to writing it as well!

    POA, consider yourself lucky, man! Most Pashtun parents aren't like that, I don't think.
    Pri, that's true. We often think there are only two ways of working things out. One is to do it the traditional way without considering our own personal/individual values and thoughts, and the other is to go completely against the parents' wishes. This is a part of why I don't agree with or like the whole "arranged vs. love" marriage thoughts we tend to have! I mean, why does a marriage have to be either? Why can't it be both?

    Rehan, welcome to my blog! You're right that a large number of Pakistani parents (rather, South Asian and maybe Middle Eastern ones, too) are actually not too likely to listen or try to understand, and that is really sad, but we have to keep on insisting! But, of course, this is just how I'd prefer it. It's perfectly understandable if someone else would prefer to do things differently because they know their parents better than anyone else would know them. But I still would emphasize the role of effective communication.
    Thanks again! Hope to see you around more often!

    1. Hey qrratugai, thanks for the reply (btw, I'm in favour of you keeping the name of the blog as it is! I agree that it's a difficult word, but I would probably have never learned such an awesome word otherwise!). I do agree with your view about trying to communicate effectively and not giving up. It is the best way, and I am trying to do this as best I can. In my case the problem is that I've chosen someone of a different nationality (but not religion) to marry. As long as the objection my parents have is to do with race, either I will succeed in convincing them, or I won't! In which case if I still want to marry that person I'd have to go down the second road you mentioned above, and it would seem impossible to have both the 'arranged' and 'love' aspects.

      P.S. Although this is my first time commenting here, I'm not entirely new to your blog, as I do follow you on Twitter :)

  5. you're right Qurrat like they do have some issues on understanding their modern kids but once u speak with them in a respectful manner they'll kind of agree on what u said:)

  6. Very interesting topic. Im a South African of Pashtun descent and my grandparents came from Afghanistan in the early 1904. Since here were no Pashtun here and because of the isolation of Apartheid South Africa until 1994, it has been difficult to be Pashtun. But hey, we manage to survive by adjusting and there are great Muslims from Indian and Malay descent here. Muslims than tend to marry with each other as they are a small percentage of the population. This is the only way to survive for Pashtun and other Muslims. The common Islamic culture than supersede any ethnicity. But people tend still to know the family history.But it does not become so important.


Dare to opine :)

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