Thursday, July 5, 2012

Pashtun Marriages in the West – Part I: The Problem(s)

Continuing the series on marriage among Pashtuns in the West. 

*Disclaimer: The topic of this post is marriage among Pashtuns raised in the West with those who are raised back home (Afghanistan/Pakistan/Pukhtunkhwa). Please note that I'm not talking about those marriages that take place between two partners (one from the West, one from back home) who choose the marriage knowing well in advance that they were both willing to reconcile their major differences because they love each other. Some of these couples, I know them personally, are happily engaged (a couple of them are married as well), and I hope that this post will not be offensive to you! No :) I hope and pray very sincerely that you live lifetimes of happiness, love, and peace with each other and that you are blessed in every way possible!

Just thought I should make that clear since I fear some might misunderstand my point and observations. I'm also speaking *generally*, not taking any individual cases into consideration. If you've an exceptional case, please do share it with us--anonymously so, if you'd prefer.

The main problem that leads to much frustration among young Pashtun women and men is that our parents raise us (boys and girls) here in the west, educating us here, allowing us to be exposed to different lifestyles and a different culture, new ways of thinking and seeing things – but when we’re “of age” to marry, they take us to Pakistan/Afghanistan to get married. Their intentions are, of course, positive, and I’ll discuss those momentarily as well. But for now, I want to explain why this leads to problems and troubles for the couples involved in the marriage. 

So, the reality is that much of the time, our parents want only our brothers to marry in Pakistan/Afghanistan (depending on where the family’s from—marriages among Pashtuns of Pakistan and Afghanistan are not common) and have them marry a cousin or another close relative from the community. As for the girls who are “of age,” well, our parents hope they’ll find us an absolutely perfect Pashtun man (an “authentic” Pashtun, religious, good, decent, excellently-educated with an excellent job with an excellent income) here in the west (United States, Canada, Western Europe). What they don’t seem or want to realize is that just as they want their sons, our brothers, to marry barely educated young girls who are in their late teens or early twenties at the latest, most other Pashtun mothers want the same thing for their sons, too. Where does that leave us Pashtun girls? It’s not like anyone’s going to let us marry a non-Pashtun man! But what else are we supposed to do if there are no single Pashtun men around who are compatible for us, or if they can’t marry us because their mothers want them to marry younger girls from back home?

That, I think, is the problem of marriage among the Pashtun diaspora--being compelled (pressured, forced, having no other choice because of a lack of "availability of Pashtuns raised in the West, etc.) to marry someone culturally, mentally, personally, intellectually incompatible who's "imported" (and I hate this word) from back home. 
And it is a problem because it has everything to do with the personal, intellectual, cultural, mental, emotional incompatibility and hence the lack of mutual understanding between the partners. Too often, then, at least one partner HAS to change for the other, and historically and sociologically, that tends to be the female partner. 

[This is going to be elaborated upon in the next post. Please be patient. For now, let's talk only about the problems.] 

Another problem is connected to the misconceptions about Pashtun girls raised/born in the West, and Pashtun males generally don't help much with this, either, since they, too, seem to prefer "girls from back home" (for obvious reasons?).  I will talk about this, too, in an upcoming post in the series.

There are many Pashtun families where I live, at least 15 (that’s a lot, okay?). Most of them have sons who are in their late 20s, a couple of them have good jobs—(but barely any of them are well-educated) – so they are there and they’re available for marriage to the Pashtun girls in that community. [I’m not speaking about myself; I’m personally not interested in marrying any man from the community I speak, but I’m saying that they’re available for Pashun girls raised here because they’ve pretty much grown up together, even though they may never/rarely have seen each other, since we’re quite strict on gender segregation.] Every one of them with two exceptions has so far been married to a girl from back home, who has never visited the west while the guy has been here at least half of his life. Then there’s a Pashtun family with I think three sons (I wouldn’t know – we aren’t allowed to interact with the opposite gender), with the father married to a white American woman, though the sons are from a Pashtun mother who has passed away, may she rest in peace. So, all of these sons are married to non-Pashtun women. When the last of the sons was getting married and all the Pashtun families there were invited, guess what the Pashtun mothers were saying :) This:

“How dare these boys marry non-Pashtun women, from other countries, when our daughters are available for marriage for them!”

So, all of those guys are doctors (I think? Or some other professionals), which is why the women were angry, since, remember, they want for their daughters “good, well-educated” husbands with respectable jobs, like most parents around the world do.  
I was like, what the heck – you send your own sons back home to marry girls who you expect would be “subservient, barely educated, submissive, obedient to their husbands and mothers-in-laws,” but you condemn the choice of those men who refuse to marry YOUR daughters who probably share your mentality? I’m not implying that all doctors or well-educated Pashtun men opt to marry non-Pashtun women. No, not at all. But these three guys we know did that, and I have so much respect for them. Bravo, boyz! 

At least one more problem is this: visas! Pashtun girls from the West having to marry men back home so that the men can come to the West! Pashtun girls in the West being used and abused as entries to the West, the land of the infidels, the land that's apparently harmful to the minds of girls but a perfectly legitimate place for boys! A land where, God forbid, a woman might betray her husband, but never mind that (our) men betray their wives constantly whether they're back home or here and no one gives a damn and no one talks about that and no one think THAT is a problem. But, you see, 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.

Another of the upcoming posts in this series will be an elaboration of this problem of pushing girls in the West to marry guys back home for visas for the guys. Again, please be patient.

And my ultimate point, y'all, is this: It's simply unfair. It's so unfair to compel two people to get married when they are so different from each other in many ways, and perhaps the only thing they share is a religion and their ethnicity (and their language). It's so unfair. And it should be considered wrong. Stop blackmailing your kids to marry folks back home for the sake of your honor, your "roots," your "people," your "culture" -- these are all unhealthy and unfair excuses, and you know that deep inside but you won't stop because you feel like you "have" to do this or else people will talk, or your daughter-in-law will turn out to be a "bad" girl and people will talk and other shit that's usually there only because -- you guessed it -- people will talk.

Stop putting "people" before the happiness of your children; stop making "people" your priority, especially when these "people" are full of foul mouths that are constantly running only to hurt you and obviously don't care about you at all. What kind of "people" are these that you're trying so desperately hard to please? What good has ever come out of our trying this hard to please these "people"?

And that is why it's unfair.

Coming up on this discussion: 
  • "Imported" brides (i.e., when men born/raised in the West marry women from back home and/or when women born/raised in the West marry men from back home)  
  • Visa marriages (i.e., using/abusing Pashtun girls as back-home Pashtuns' access to the West)  
  • The Causes of this Problem  
    • the "Pashtun" way of marriage  
    • misconceptions about Pashtun women in the West 
  • Possible Solutions to the Problem


  1. It's a good interesting topic but it's not just related to Pukhtun people but is more of a cultural dominated society issue and so can be classified as general ethnically, commonly faced by migrants. Honestly I myself am unable to understand why guys n girls brought up here belonging to similar cultural background don't want to marry each other !! Alternative is very cleanly elaborated thanks to you, except one situation that you know very well and is the cause of a bigger problem.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Unuttered Word!
      Yep, the problem isn't unique to Pukhtuns, and I pointed that out somewhere in there (and added that I'm a Pukhtana myself so I choose to focus on the problem among Pukhtuns only). It's indeed an issue that most people among the diaspora, including Arabs, are facing. In fact, more generally speaking about Muslims, I should also add this bit:

      Because Muslim women in general are reportedly (and I believe really) unable to find partners, many of them have been turning to polygamous marriages because they are told they cannot marry non-Muslm (Christian/Jewish) men, so they feel like the only options available to them are: marriage to men who they believe they are not a par with or marriage to already married men whom they believe actually are on a par with them. They prefer the latter in many cases, but I'm sure some also go for the first option.

      I think it's a serious and harmful problem, and what's worse is that no one's talking about it (enough). At least among Pashtuns. Thankfully, VOA-Ashna radio recently hosted a program on this a couple of weeks ago in which they invited people with different perspectives on the issue to talk about it, and it was great. I hope that more and more Pashtun media will follow suit.

  2. Excellent, interesting read jeenay, :D (lailajan)

    1. Thanks, Lailajaney khaaperai :) Glad you found it worth a read!

  3. Firstly I am pleased to see more and more fellow Pashtuns writing online and making their presence felt.
    Secondly I would have finished reading this piece on Problems pertaining to Marriages in Overseas Pashtuns but since this Piece was extremely length thats why I managed to read only half of it.
    AnyHow a good effort indeed, to highlight some of the very basic problems faced by our people.


    1. Thanks for dropping by and commenting, Salman Ahmad! It makes me very happy, too, to see Pukhtuns writing and speaking up about whatever they believe is important enough to be talked about!

      I hope to see you around more often.


  4. you have hightlighted a grave problem; confronting a verity of nationals (muslims)and particularly Pukhtuns (because of their strict codes and family system..probably). i am a pakistani, living in pakistan but my brother is settled in germany for last 24 years and one of my sister is in canada for last 18 years. they are also having same problems at the moment; marriage of their daughters. my advise has been to let them marry any decent man there (muslim) who know the culture and values. but i dont know whether it is easier said than done or not... will wait for your subsequent posts.. take care, you doing a good job.

    1. Thank you very much for your response, Anonymous!
      I'm quite pleased that people are acknowledging the importance of this issue and that many can relate to it.

      Yes, you are right that it's much easier said/suggested than done :) I think it's the problem that most parents are feeling. And not being certain about whether Puhktuns/Muslims raised in the West would be a good match for their kids or not, even when their own kids are raised here as well and may be wonderful Muslims/Pukhtuns/people. It's really hard on the parents, too, and they also become victims of the problem, since it's a social problem.

      Thanks again for your contribution!

  5. I agree with most of what you say....
    though you have good details....forgot one point....
    A guy usually wants the girl to integrate with his family and a girl (specially west raised Desi girl) will want to drag the guy away from his family and west raised desi guys/girls sort of have lack of respect for their own and their partners family.

    And fyi, it is not just men these days that are into two timing, more and more women are two timing as fact 2 and 3 timing...

    1. Thanks for your comment, Anonymous!

      Hm... it's precisely because of things like what you believe ("... and a girl (specially west raised Desi girl) will want to drag the guy away from his family and west raised desi guys/girls sort of have lack of respect for their own and their partners family.") that we need to do everything in our power as "western" Pashtun women to dispel all these unjust lies about us :)

      If you get a moment, I do invite you to read that post when it's up.

      Thanks again for visiting and contributing to the conversation!

    2. see, my take is that our parents worked hard and took care of us as if we were being brought up back home.
      Growing up, we did not have the family trouble that white/black kids face, yet, after we grow up, we stand in the face of our parents as western kids.
      Plus, my previous comment was not an assumption, it was based of facts.
      Another issue with western/abcd/identity seeking desi guys and specially girls is that they want to act like western kids but at the core of their heart they will always have the desi values that they were brought up with and at some point in their life they realize that, but for some it is already too late. I am one of the unfortunate ones.....:(

      p.s break the long posts into different parts...plzzzz

    3. oh and fyi, if you already do not know..... even black girls do not like black guys anymore coz of their hood attitude along with other major cant be comparing a Pakhtun guy with a black guy......I know we have issues, buy no where near the issues that black guys have.....

    4. Thanks again for your responses, Anonymous!

      Yaaaaa ... I'm tryina think up a way to break it into parts, lol. Will do! Sorry y'all have had to read it while this long :) Thanks, though!

  6. I feel like I should get some kinda reward (read: candy) just for reading a post this long.

    You raise some valid points. I'm still surprised you dont have a fatwa against you. Either you arent famous enough, or you arent pissing off the right people.

    Also, I think this post will inspire a post of my own.

    1. Thanks, man!
      hahahaha you think THIS is long? Whoa, wait till you see many of my other posts here :p
      Thanks for reading it anyway, laawlz.

      About the fatwa, draq draq khanda! I've prolly already been blessed with one; just don't know about it :D I'd be surprised if I haven't pissed off the right people yet! I mean ... rather, I think they just ignore what I say, LOL. Or unfollow me on Twitter ;)

    2. P.S. Looking forward to your post on this topic as well! Yay!!

  7. my 2cents...children need to leave their parents and stop feeding on their hard work if they dont want any input from their parents.....wait till you become a will say you will give free will to your kids, but just wait till you have kids who dont listen to you, you will want to go back in time to seek your parents forgiveness but you will not be able to ....
    (by "you" i mean most people to think this way, not exactly "you")

    1. Thanks for your insight, Anonymous! Much appreciated!

      Hm... not sure if I ever suggested to children in this post or anywhere else to disobey their parents or ignore them or not listen to them, etc. This is more a call to parents than to the kids, really. In fact, I've made it very clear that parents always want the best for us and they are certain that whatever they want for us is the best for us--but the problem is the lack of communication between parents and children, which leads to many problems, some of which have been discussed above.

      It is true that we don't always have the time to seek our parents' forgiveness and we should do it while we have the time. Great reminder! Thank you!

  8. Our people amaze me because of their hypocricy sometimes. I know that is a harsh word, but lately it makes me sick how they think.

    In this case a decent girl born and raised in the west, shouldn't deserve some guy from back home if she doesn't want to marry him. There is difference in culture and many guys who seem like good guys in front of their parents, might be getting up to other stuff that nobody realises. So when they come to the west, they might indulge in things which arent good.

    Now from a guys perspective, they want to marry a girl from back home. But many of the girls nowadays especially in the cities or educated are quite more westernised than you would expect. To think that they would be so faithful or settle for just obeying their husband is just a myth. Not that im saying a good wife should act like a slave to their husband, but like people think a woman back home will act like that. Many of the girls seem innocent but deep down they might be worse than the girls brought up in the west.

    So I dont get this fascination to make stereo-types. Parents should just settle for their kids to get married to people they like! Their choice and not somebody whom the parents think is good. If their son is attracted towards a retarded girl or a girl who seems very indecent/unislamic, then there is something wrong with your son!! There might be something wrong with the way he got raised up!! So dont destroy another girls life, to satisfy your family image. Show to everybody the reality that your son dont deserve a decent woman unless he changes himself!

    1. Thanks, HK! I couldn't agree more! Unfortunately, most parents don't see it as a simple "Let's let our kids decide who they want to marry." But, you see, even if the parents DO let their kids choose, the problem isn't just about choice: it's about availability! I've a few Pukhtun friends (females) whose parents told them they could marry anyone they wanted (of course, the parents had to approve and all), and they weren't/aren't able to find anyone, even if they "lowered their standards," because, again, most people think that "western-raised Pukhtun girls" are bad girl and shouldn't be accepted as their daughters-in-law or as their wives. Some then settled for marrying men from back home, even if it was their choice, and ended up miserable, others are still single and hoping to find someone compatible, and others have settled for men back home and are just living (and I pray they are happy).

      This is really complicated ... and I'm not sure how we can try to simplify it to figure out some solutions for the problem, but I think that's why we need people to start talking about it more.

      Thanks again for your input!

  9. I think it is general problem with immigrants esp from Muslim countries that want to retain their cultural values among their children. My take on this issue is that once you have decided to permanently settle in the west and raise your kids there, it is not right for u to demand that your children behave as u did when u were their ages. Instead of confusing them, u need to let them be whatever they want. thanks for sharing your thoughts!!

    1. Indeed :) Thank you for your insight, Ali! I agree that it's unfair of the parents to have the same expectations of their kids when they are raising them in a different society.

  10. Brevity and objectivity are the soul of wit. Most of what you write Qrratugai doesn't please at least me who have at least ten other articles opened in other tabs. Be brief and to the point. You don't nee to expand what is obvious. I do appreciate you chose some very relevant issues.

    1. Thank you very much for your opinion, RK! Greatly appreciated, although I obviously prefer my style and intend to stick to it till I get bored of it :

  11. I think part of living in America is realizing you shouldn't stick only to your own race. Now that would solve the availability issue.

    1. Excuse me? Don't teach us what "part of living in America" entails.

  12. This is very interesting to me as a Western white woman in a relationship with a Western Pashtun man. We are an older generation so I am probably not stealing a potential mate from any young Pashtun woman (although arrangements are being made for one of his nieces to marry a Pashtun man old enough to be her father so maybe I am!) We are culturally more similar and more in tune with each other from my perspective than any previous relationship I have had with a white man. He is also much more of a gentleman than most - I hasten to say most as there are some exceptionally gentleman like men who are white. I would not want to make the kind of generalisations that a previous anonymous contributor made about Desi women! The cultural issues we have are to do with communication with his mother who speaks no English so I am trying to learn Pushto and the fact that no matter what I do in her eyes I will never be the right woman for him even if I make him happy for the rest of his life. I wondered if you had any plans to write about this or are we too rare to mention?

    1. Thank you for your comment and sharing your experience!

      Oh, no, I actually did intend to continue this topic for a while but got busy with other things. So, yes, the fact that you have some Pashtun men marrying non-Pashtun women (usually white western women) is, in my opinion, a major problem and does decrease the availability of potentially compatible Pashtun men for Pashtun women. Mainly because Pashtun women's marriage to non-Pashutn men is so frowned upon that we would hate to put ourselves in a situation where we're compelled (due to a lack of compatible Pashtun men) to consider non-Pashtun men. Just because that'd be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get through our parents/elders, and who wants the status of a "runaway"? In Pashto, the word for a woman who marries a man without her parents' consent is "mateeza."

      I'm not sure how the situation was in your generation, but it's certainly worse in mine (current marriageable generation), as it's worsened also throughout the world for most other communities, especially immigrant communities in the West, because of changing ideas of gender roles/rights and higher education for women and whatnot.

      But I'd have to find/meet more white/non-Pashtun women who've married Pashtun men to be able to write about it in detail.

      Thank you again for dropping by! :)

  13. I am an American Pashtun guy in my late 20's looking for a decent Pashtun girl in the West. Where can I find them?

  14. They all love to talk here on forums but when you actually do approach them they want you be million a (an exxageration) 6 foot 5 in height pay five times a day I mean the guy these girls are looking for is non existent and no one listens to mom and dad no more if you have normal standards and know what you can score it's not hard to find westren used pashtun men

  15. I completely agree with you, I am a Pakistani-Canadian (Parents from Karachi) and my girlfriend is Pakistani-Canadian as well (Parents from KPK), Her parents want her to marry someone from back home, yet she told her parents that she will either marry me or won't marry anyone at all. Her parents told her that marrying outside of the tribe is a dishonor. That part I do not understand because I am well educated and have a very good job, so how could I possibly be dishonor to them. Overall, we are at the point where we are just waiting for her parents to give in. It hasn't been easy but we are praying that Allah opens the hearts of her parents so that they let her marry me.

    1. I'm very sorry to hear about your dilemma. It's really sad and heartbreaking that so many parents refuse to let their children live in the time and space we're breathing in! But, yes, I know of many couples who have struggled like this just because they didn't belong to the same ethnicity.
      God be with you two! InshaAllah the parents will give in :)

  16. Read this post as I think it can help me with my situation: Being both of UK citizenship, my boyfriend is a British Pathan (From Afghanistan, moved to pakistan, then to the UK), and I myself am a British Pakistani (born and raised from uk). We both met at university and dated for two years, and are deciding to hopefully get married to each other. There are obviously a few problems we face:
    1) He said Pathans are usually strict and myself coming from a very liberal, moderate Pakistani family - i don't know if I would be able to compromise and live in a family where women are restricted to certain things despite the living of a Western society.
    2) This leads me on to what he would want from me if we were to marry: Wear hijab (Even though I practice the religion on a daily person), wear loose-clothing; one that does not show the body and covers the chest and hips. I have been raised on a family where I have been told to cover my body skin, and will say that I do wear some tight clothes i.e. skinny jeans and leggings although cover my bottoms, and have worn bodycon dresses for work reasons. He accepted my choice of clothing at university, but when it comes to marrying, he wants me to change it for the sake of religion. and his family being very religious. I fail to understand why although my heart is very clean and I dont ever have bad intentions. I thought clothing was out of choice and does not identify who you are, but what I have realised is if my boyfriend wants something from me, he will say it "for the sake of Allah".
    3) Being educated with a degree, I would obviously like to work which I would only if I could manage both responsibilities of being a wife and a working women. But he thinks I should only work if I can manage my duties but wants me to help and take care of his mother and family. But isn't my priority taking care of him only?

    I don't know if coming from a moderate, liberal Pakistani, i will be able to marry and live in a religious and restricted environment which I have not had for the past 23 years of my life. I just need some advice from you on this situation!

  17. Hi...i want to ask a question as i am so much worried about mother wants me to marry a pathan guy...but i am punjabi...does pathans marry punjabi girls.??does thier families accept punjabi girls??...i am.not interested in pathan guys but my mother wants me to marry a pathan


Dare to opine :)

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