Friday, July 20, 2012

Pashtun Marriages in the West--Part III: visa marriages

In an earlier post on the problem of marriage among Pashtuns in the West, I wrote, "Pashtun girls from the West having to marry men back home so that the men can come to the West! Western Pashtun girls being used and abused as entries to the West ...."
if a Pashtun girl refuses the proposal or marriage to a cousin/someone back home who's never been to the West, her family and relatives will accuse her of being selfish: "You know very well that life is hell for men there. They can't find a job, they can't get good education, they can't do ANYTHING. You HAVE to marry this guy if you care at all about the honor of this family or of your roots and people. Shame on you if you don't." This is how we're emotionally blackmailed.
Try resisting such accusations, only to be attacked even more. Heck, in some cases, they'll even use an ill family member's illness to compel us to give in to the marriage. Or an elderly family member. "Don't you want your parent/grandparent to see you married off happily?" This goes both ways, for the girls and the boys. Got a cousin/family member/neighbor back home who's all alone and got no one to take care of? If you're a Pashtun guy and your family is skilled at blackmailing, they'll go: "Look, she has no one else. We're all she's got. Consider it charity. God will reward you. Imagine life with a Western Pukhtana jinay - she'll ruin you! Don't you know how they are? But imagine life with a quiet, sweet, innocent, humble, DECENT girl from back home -- and who better than someone you can help? God will reward you for it. Please do it." etc., etc. And they won't shut up till you do it! In cases like these, I'm sorrier for the guys ... sorry, boyz. So sorry. Life must be hard on y'all in the West, just like it is on us girls, too. *big fat tears* And these kinds of blackmails never end: after the marriage, right away, they'll go, "Don't you want your parent/grandparent to see your kids, hold their tender little precious bodies in their mighty blessed arms and give them their blessings?" It's not like there's any direct force. There may rarely be threats. It's just these blackmails. The pressure is intense. It's hard to avoid family when they're on your head about your marriage constantly.  And to resist these kinds of blackmails is to be talked so meanly and filthily of that you have no other choice but to give in just to prove that their accusations aren't true. And one of the worst things they (the family/relatives/others involved in ensuring that we marry guys from back home rather than here) can do is to suspect that you must be interested in "a black guy"! Don't tell me you've never heard that from a Pukhtun woman in your community, haaa haa. Goes like this: "Waley? Ta ba da tori sara waada key sa? Zaan ba marr kam kho taa ba tori ta pre na dam." :| And you're standing there thinking, "Wait, what? My refusal to marry someone from back home automatically means I'm in love with a black guy? Besides, what's wrong with black guys? They're sometimes better than Pukhtun men, damnit." etc. -- but, girls, don't kid yourself and say that out loud to any woman who says that to you. Just don't take the risk.

This visa stuff (men marrying women only to obtain a visa into a western country) is actually more serious among Moroccan men and white American/Canadian converts to Islam, and I've read a lot on this. I thought it was just some of my own friends I know who this has happened to (white converts to Islam looking to marry an "authentic" Muslim, and Moroccans apparently are some of the best Muslim men, they falsely think), but it's a phenomenon today. In most cases, the guy is already married--with kids--and doesn't tell the convert here. They usually meet online, and the whole thing (engagement, etc.) takes place online, and so by the time he gets here, their nikaah is done, and, in some cases, the marriage isn't registered, making it hell for the woman to get out of the marriage and to get anything out of it (her mahr/dower, etc.) because the state has no proof of their marriage. The point is, it's bad! Stop doing it to us Puhktun women, too, before it gets out of hand!

With Puhktuns, it's not that the man will leave the wife as soon as he gets his greencard/etc. And legally, if he does ANYTHING to her, including even lightly hitting her, and she reports him to the police during the time that he's waiting to get his documents, he will get deported. Just something I think all women in the U.S. should know in case they're involved in abusive/unhappy marriages with an immigrant who's here only through her.

So, what happens ultimately in some cases? Divorce becomes an issue, then, since we don't typically think well of divorced women, but when a Pashtun raised/educated in the West marries someone raised/educated in Pashtunkhwa/Afghanistan with a completely different mentality, and the couple weren't given a chance to speak to each other and get to know each other at least a little bit before marriage, the marriage is very likely to end in divorce. This should not be taken to mean that Pashtun girls raised in the West don't give marriage a chance or don't respect their husbands or marriage or kids or that they think divorce is a small matter--no, that's not true. But I'll talk about this and these unfair judgments commonly held about Pashtun girls in the West in the next post in the series.

Coming up in the series: 
  • The Causes of this Problem  
    • the "Pashtun" concepts of marriage and family
    • misconceptions about Pashtun women in the West 
  • Possible Solutions to the Problem
  • Further discussion on the topic: readers' responses analyzed and addressed


  1. great! love it!
    Are you single?

    1. So, hey, what exactly is it that you find great and that you love about this when you appear to believe that there's no issue here at all? ;) Forgive me if I misunderstood you, but one of your comments below says just this.

      Thanks for your participation in the discussion, and feel free to ask as many questions as you'd like (other than things like "so, who are you engaged/married to? What do you look for in your spouse? Where do you live?" etc :p)

  2. ummm....not exactly spam..was a legit question from your blog reader.....:(
    didn't mean to offend you!

  3. I knew it wasn't spam, but I don't see its relevance to the post :) (Yes, maybe you see it's relevant since these posts are about marriage and all - but these aren't about me me; they're about Diasporic Pashtuns in general).

    For the record, however, I'm not single.

    1. it is relevant, you are the writer and writing the sad story about Pakhtun marriage the first question that comes to mind is, is the person writing this married? or did this person face this issue? is this person basing the accusations on own experience or others experience? is this person really a Pakhtun? is this person really a Muslim? is this the best this person can do to fix an issue that really is not an issue? got million other questions, but for now Ramazan mubarak!

  4. Hm... I was certain I'd explained why I was writing about this and that it was based as much on my own personal experiences as it was on my observations and some friends'/other Pashtuns' experiences. But I'm happy to say that again to remind the readers.

    But the reason why I don't see its relevance is that I think you/we should be focusing on the points raised here, not in whether this is about me or not. It shouldn't matter whether I'm single or not, but what should matter is what the situation is like for Pashtuns in the West, both male and female, who are of age to marry, but the tide rarely seems to be in their favor. If you are in the West (or otherwise outside of Pakistan/Afghanistan), you might be able to understand what's going on here. Otherwise, I can imagine why you might think we're just wasting our time talking about something that doesn't need to be talked about at all.

    By the way, I'm not sure where the question of "is this person Muslim/Pashtun" fits, though. And in response to your question "is this the best this person can do to fix an issue that is really not an issue?" I've the following to ask:

    1. What exactly "is" it that you think I'm doing to fix this issue? I mean, how do you understand my effort? If you've got better ideas for me to consider in "fixing this issue," feel free to share them with me! This is a serious problem that needs to be discussed widely, and all ideas are welcomed.

    2. You don't see what the "issue" here is? That's fine, of course, if you think there's nothing to worry about here. But I'm wondering if you actually get what's going on here at all ... like I sad, though, if you're not in the West or otherwise in the diaspora, it's understandable why you wouldn't see any "issue" here at all. Because the responses I've received from most other Pashtuns, especially those in the diaspora, are quite pleased that we're finally talking about this.

    ... though as far as I understand it, many back home, especially the educated (both girls and boys) have similar concerns as those in the diaspora. We just need a platform to talk about these things, and we don't have it because it's supposed to be "be sharam, be haya" to talk about marriage!

    Ramadhan mubarak to you as well! :) May it be a blessed one for the whole world!

    1. let me say it again, i love your blog, but I have to ask questions and give comments as they come to my do bear with me plz

      my thing is that our parents generation has produced too many kids and literally destroyed their own lives to give us a better future and we in return feel obligated to revolt against them....why?
      yes, there is an issue, but the way to fix it by TALKING to the parents and the kids who are in this situation.
      next thing you know, girls would wanna marry girls and guys would wanna marry guys ( i am not anti gay but do believe that marriage is between a man and a woman)
      what your writing reflects is the fact that everyone should be able to make their own choices, agreed, but that is not how it works. you can always make your choice, but what is the guarantee that your choice in marriage is right, just like there is no guarantee with your parents choice.
      Why do you think there is more pressure on girls than the guys? I apologize if I am going to be explicit here, here girls get pregnant and guys dont. Guys take advantage of girls and who has to go through 9 months of labor?

      people have been marrying for greencard for ages, it is not new, and it is not just the Muslims that do it, everyone does it, not that I am justifying it, my point is, why are you singling out Pakhtuns/Men??
      I dont know which crowd you get your opinion or reasons from, but all the Pakhtuns I know here and back home are AWESOME!!!!

      The issue with most girls is that they are too stubborn and want to prove themselves right, even when they are not.

      The bottom line is, due to the influence of romantic hindi movies, we want a hero/heroine in our life and we see our parents choice as a villain. We are willing to go an extra mile to rub it in our parents face that they are wrong. This is something that our elders had predicted a while back.

      and fyi, I was born and raised in Texas but my experiences in life taught me to keep my values and not make simple things complicated!

    2. Anonymous, thank you so much for your insight! I appreciate your taking the time to explain yourself.

      However, I believe there's a huge misunderstanding here. Allow me to explain how.

      1. I don't at all believe that children should revolt against their parents! I'm so sorry if it came off that way. I explained this in a previous post on this series as well, as someone thought that's exactly what I was doing. In fact, let me actually say that I'm the kind of person who, while possibly choosing someone myself for marriage, will never, ever marry that person until and unless my parents give consent. Like you said, talking to our parents is extremely important, and this is something that needs to be emphasized.

      2. Understand that my main audience isn't us kids! It's parents. As such, I can never imagine myself telling an elder, "You're wrong. You're SO wrong! You don't know what you're doing, and as a youngun, I know better than you." Really, I'm quite sorry to see that you completely misread what is being said here. I'm not attacking our parents' decisions; I'm urging them to try to understand their children's concerns in a chaotic world that's much different from the one they were brought up in, and I'm urging the kids to think about this deeply enough to be able to understand it form their parents' viewpoint as well as to explain it to them from a more mature, wiser viewpoint so as to be heard.

      3. As I've said above, this is a part of a series. I'm reminding you of this because I've said here/elsewhere that an upcoming series on this post is going to be about the Pashtun understandings of marriage and family. I've also written before about arranged marriages, showing that I'm actually not against them, so long as there is no force (you can read that post here:

      And another in that series is going to be some solutions that I will propose to this problem, and guess what the ultimate point there will be :) Effectively communicating with parents! Talking with them from many different viewpoints, helping them understand us and ensuring that we understand them as well. Sometimes we think it's only our parents' fault because they don't understand us, when the reality is that we're the ones not giving them a chance to explain themselves and to understand us -- or us trying to understand them.

      4. I understand you believe this is very simple - but what I can't understand is WHAT you believe is simple here. Just marry whoever comes your way that your parents like? ... just get married and don't ask questions, period? I'm not sure I get you here. What do you think is "simple" here that I'm "complicating"?

      (continued in the next comment - word limit, hah)

    3. Continued:

      5. My life and virtually everything else have taught me that, yes, things are sometimes simple and we just complicate them, but many, many other times, things are really complex and we simply them. And in trying to simplify them to avoid facing some real, big issue, we harm ourselves and others involved without intending to do so.

      6. If you think I believe in Bollywood kind of love, you are highly mistaken :D On the contrary, I'm currently writing a piece on love in reality vs love in Bollywood, lol. I'm also completely against the portrayal of the woman/heroine in Bollywood and other unrealistic universes, and I'm writing about that as well - it's more about how weak and powerless the woman is portrayed as, but it gets the point across nonetheless.

      7. I've explained in an earlier post in this series why I'm writing about Pashtuns instead of writing about this problem from the viewpoint of a "world citizen," lol. I've pointed out several times that this problem isn't unique to Pashtuns ... I'll never understand why we don't like to be in the spotlight even if being so may be necessary for a step toward a solution for a major issue.

      8. Um ... I've never said any Pashtuns I know are not awesome :) I don't meet un-awesome people very frequently, you see. Again, I remind you that this isn't an attack on Pashtuns. This is *one* perspective on what our marriages are like in the West. You are welcome to ignore it, but I encourage you to think about it instead.

      It's great to here you were born and raised in Texas! I had no idea there were any Pashtuns there at all.

      Best, and thank you again for your insight!

    4. No Pakhtuns in Texas? Who said that?? No many, but we are here :)

      And I am not arguing anymore, we waste too much time in arguing on issues and without any results.
      I never suggested that we marry whoever comes our way.

      p.s just like other bloggers, you are raising the issues that are good to raise, but there are nicer things to talk about too, in order to give hope to the younger crowd. I am sure our parents are not going to be spending time reading the blogs, they still love their /news channel and print media.

      neways, keep it up, you do write well and I hope your blog brings a POSITIVE impact on the Pakhtun community!

    5. Duuuuuuuuuuuuude - I've written extensively on the "positive" things in our society, man! For starters, the most obvious is prolly the above tab "Pashtun Leaders," and then there are a lotta random stuff about our culture, history, traditions, etc. This blog's been here for about 3 and a half years, so I'd have to go looking for them, but they should be in the archives (right).

      Thanks for reading the blog and offering your insight! Always important to hear a different perspective. Criticism in particular is good to get; it helps me grow.

  5. Personal experience and scores of examples around me have made me believe that the majority of marriages between east and west are purely for immigration. This doesn't only apply to women marrying back home but also men. Most of the time the girls don't even care what the guy does or looks like so long as he's from abroad and they come over, and the guys who are already in the west tend to marry westerners (pukhtanay or non) purely to settle down abroad.

    There are the odd examples of westerners moving back to the east but that too is either temporary, for the sake of the upbringing of their children (as back home they think they'll be brought up rotten even though the spouse is western and absolutely fine) or the lifestyle back home is attractive enough to make the move permanent.

    1. Thanks for your response, Hinoo Minoo Binoo!

      Indeed - I know of girls back home who've been given to muuuuch older western Pashtun men as second and third wives! Don't you know, girl, money grows on trees here! :)

  6. Hey qrratugai! Ramadan Mubarak/Ramadan Kareem :) I haven't commented for a while but I've still been reading and enjoying your blog posts, as usual! I liked the one you wrote about Ramadan in Jordan recently, and the greeting 'Allah Akram' as a reponse to 'Ramadan Kareem' - I'd never heard of that one before, but since I recently moved to an Arabic-speaking country (Qatar) I'm going to watch out for it. But of course I had to comment on this one (and after following the discussion on the comments as well), particularly as this marriage topic is one I feel so strongly about!

    As a non-Pashtun desi, I think a lot of the stuff you've written is quite relevant for other communities too, even if the degree to which these things are prevalent might depend on the specific group/culture. But I definitely feel that it is a complicated issue and to reduce it to simply 'rebellion against parents/kids wanting to have their own way' vs 'keeping your own values' is not right either. As such, marrying simply who your parents choose vs going against them just out of spite are equally wrong and two sides of the same coin, in that neither of them are good reasons for marriage. But having said that, I do believe it's the kid's right to choose, not the parents, but that it's also the kids responsibility to communicate with the parents and try to make them understand the reasons behind his/her choice. This also involves being open and giving serious thought to what the parents say. Ultimately, some parents are understanding and will genuinely listen to their kids point of view, and unfortunately some (although I hope a minority) will not, and will simply threaten the kids with disowning, disinheritance or worse if their way is not followed. For me, the key point you've highlighted (that sadly didn't come up in the earlier comments) is the compatibility between husband and wife. The issue here is that people are being coerced into marriage with people who they don't relate to on an emotional, cultural and so many other levels, just to please their elders and 'society'. At the end of the day, what is the point of marriage? In my view, your spouse is (ideally) supposed to be someone in whose company you find inner peace, tranquillity and companionship (of course, finding these things will most always involve some level of sacrifice) and who therefore allows you to fulfil your innate potential in all other spheres of life. Of course, there are many other reasons/purposes for marriage, but this in my opinion is the most important one. Of course one can't generalise, but I have a female (Sikh) friend, born and raised in the west, whose parents coerced her into marrying someone from 'back home' when she was 17 or 18, and who promptly ran away on getting the passport, but it was years until she was able to get her divorce finalised! And despite this the same parents stopped talking to her when she refused their next choice of someone from the community for her (though by this time they had chosen someone also raised in the UK), as she secretly had a white boyfriend who she was too scared to tell them about! And despite all this she still felt guilt about not obeying her parents! So knowing the stigma that desis face if they don't obey their parents, and that most kids would find it very difficult to anyway (due to obedience being instilled in them), I would tend to sympathise more with the kids rather than accuse them of being rebellious etc. Ultimately, kids who have been brought up in a different environment from their parents (e.g. 'the west' vs 'back home', or even just due to changes in society), will always think differently, and reconciling the two sides when it comes to marriage is complicated and each case needs to be looked at individually - though collectively of course many lessons can be learned from the experiences of others, which is why your blog posts are important - so thank you!


Dare to opine :)

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