Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pashtun Marriages in the West - Part 4b: Misconceptions(b)

Continuing the discussion Misconceptions about Pashtun women raised in the West (the following are all Pashtun females' thoughts/experiences/observations, verbatim, on said misconceptions--in 2 cases, some personal information was removed so as to ensure that the identity of the speaker is not disclosed. Specifically, misconceptions or just impressions on the marriageable Pashtun girl who's raised in the West):
From Person 4: [...] Another big misconception that I have been seeing involves the oh so touchy subject of marriage. As I mentioned above, we have our elders supporting us to go through with school and work, etc. But when the time comes to be married off, we are expected to say yes to the next cousin that asks for our hand, and drop all of our own aspirations to become his housewife. Because God forbid you should want to work, right? When you reject these proposals, the talks begin. Oh, she thinks she's too good for us, she must have a boyfriend, etc. I PERSONALLY know of a very dear sweet girl who agreed to drop all (educated girl) to marry a dickhead distant relative of mine. She felt it was her time to get married, and felt that by marrying someone "modern" (had been in London for 10 or so years) she' be set. This engagement (2 years ago? 1.5?) alarmed many of our khplwan [relatives]. Why? Because we are from City J, and the girl was from City W. He had approximately 8-10 cousins his age back in Pakistan who he could've married. But no. Come the day of the Nikah [religious ceremony that binds the bride and the groom], he wanted OUT. My dad was on the mens side, he said "halak zyar rawokhtey wo" ("the boy had turned pale in fear!"). Being the Pukhtuns that we are, the Nikah went through. Lalala, time passses. He feels the strain from everyone because of their differences. They never went through with the wedding. The week he comes to America, they get divorced. A case of using the girl for a Visa. His family was here in the U.S., he was stuck there. I wish us girls were more aware about cases like this. Visa abuse can be from any country! Not necessarily limited to Afghanistan and Pakistan. 
Where does this leave me and other girls like me? I have many big dreams for myself. I want to be able to teach English one day. Ultimately in Afghanistan, but until the situation calms down there, I am content with teaching anywhere. Will marrying a relative (or marrying anyone for that matter) force me to put my dreams on hold? Am I being selfish for not wanting to get married because of this reason? Am I wrong for trying to protect myself and my heart by not marrying a relative for fear of being used for my Visa? 
In the book Persian Girls: A Memoir by Nahid Rachlin, Pari marries an older man because he promises her he will let her perform on stage. Being the man that he is, he takes back his promise once they are married. Is it wrong of me to even use that term? "the man that he is", or have men rightfully earned this term themselves? 
One of my best best friends got married exactly a week ago. She married a Bangladeshi man. She also happens to be the cousin of the dickhead I mentioned earlier. Her parents were understanding about this marriage because she and they, have always put Islam first, rather than culture. Everyone seems happy for the most part. Another friend got married in November to a Turkish man. Same reason.  
Is this what us Pukhtaney have to turn to now? A non Pukhtun man, simply because they aren't corrupted like our men are?
Or are we forever alone?
Person 6. I have spent only six months in Ireland during which I met a very limted number of Pakistani families and whose kids were mostly below 10 so that experience doesn't count here. but yeah, I have seen how people here [in Pakistan] look at the girls living in West.
In case of marriages, as Person 3 said, it depends on each family's educational and financial experience. I have never seen the understanding of Pashto or the culture being considered an issue here in our family when the they badly want their son to go abroad. Sometimes the mother comes up with worries like, "Oh my son will end up becoming her servant, she'll order him around and work while he'd stay at home and raise the kids." Otherwise, they don't care about knowing or not knowing Pashto and Pashtun culture. I haven't heard any one discussing this as an issue. They might say, "Their kids won't be able to communicate with us" but as long their son gets to go abroad, they don't care. On the other hand, if a family is financially good and educated, they may not consider a girl living in the West a huge deal. For them it's a normal thing.

What people think of the girls living there [in the West]? 
Girls of my age : Some of your friends said that girls here [in Pakistan] think of them as kaliwalay [villagers, backward]. I totally disagree with that. Most of the girls here actually envy them. Because well, girls there have better opportunities to education, mainly. They are more independent, they get to work if they want to and they wouldn't be questioned like here. and they probably get better rishtey [proposals] too, so better lives eventually. Yeah, I have seen more "modern" and fashionable girls here than those coming from the West but that all depends on every person's personal choice. Like I met this family where there were three sisters, all three were differentky dressed. One was a lot into fashion i.e jewellery, make-up and style, one was kinda normal and the third one was very simple. All the three were born and raised there [in the West]. 

Boys: Yes, they might think of girls in the West as sluts who have lots of boyfriends, who are never home, who know nothing about household work and who'd want to make him submit to her. Some who need to go abroad would ignore their opinion in the begining and make the girl's life hell after marrying her or may change his opinion after observing her life there. But they have simialr opinion about girls living here too. When I first started living in hostel, I heard several things being said by people in my family and by those friends who couldn't get admssion in Jinnah College (which is considered the best girls college in Khyber Pashtunkhwa)

to-be-Mother-in-laws: Again if a family wants to send their son abroad and the only way is by marrying a girl, they wouldn't care about that girl's Pashto, respect for culture, religious ideas etc. The mother would of course here and there tell people how she's worried about her son's life but mostly she doesn't mean it, she is usually happy that her son will get to go to the West. After the guy starts living there, she starts talking about her actual concerns. Mothers think that their son would be enslaved by his wife, she'd work and he'd cook. or if he works too, he'll have to cook for himself (and omg poor guy, he must be spoonfed), clean the house and wash the clothes and dishes. They fear that the kids won't know any Pashto to communicate with the people back home (not that it's a huge problem, most people take pride in that), they'd have no knowledge about their religion which is a BIG BIG issue and they wouldn't like the family back home enough. 

This is what I have observed over the years.
To be continued in Part 4c.

Coming up in the series:
- Part 4 (c): misconceptions about girls raised in the West
- Part 5: traditional Pashtun ideas of marriage (e.g., how do we get married, how do arranged marriages work, what are alternatives to an arranged marriage, etc.)
- Part 6: possible solutions to these problems (or the overall problem of marriage) among Pashtuns
Previously on Pashtun Marriages in the West:


  1. Zarak Khan YousafzaiDecember 5, 2012 at 5:16 AM

    I have read your article it is nice but I am not totally agree with you I have lived in UK and now in Australia I have seen many Pakistani and Pashtoon male who really got suffered with the hands of western girls and families lolz .....

    It is totally depend on the person and families, good people and family are everywhere the same
    I have seen some angel girls in west and some sluts too and same in males .....

    1. seriously the views she decided to put up are so one sided. There are many girls who ended up running away. I feel the guys from back home are more accomodating of the girls from the west to hide their slight insecurity towards her. And let's face it, a lot of girls in the US have boyfriends. No denying that one

    2. Thanks so much for your input, Sana!

      So where are you located, in the West or in Pakistan/Afghanistan--or somewhere else?

      I'm trying to get as much insight into this as possible, so you are absolutely welcome to add additional points if you believe this is one-sided. If you've any specific cases you'd like to share, that's welcomed as well.

    3. P.S. Sana, have you seen the tab above, titled "Pashtun Marriages"? (Link: http://orbala.blogspot.com/p/pashtun-marriages.html) The idea there is to get a more complete picture of the issue, thus including perspectives from males as well. You should take a look at the comments there to understand what males have to say as well. Some particularly interesting comments about girls "back home" there as well, although it's never one gender alone.

    4. Zarak Khana, thanks for your insight! I appreciate it very much.

      You're right that it depends on families (and relatives and the overall community/neighborhood as well). But the things I'm saying above are actually not my opinion necessarily; I'm pasting the things that other Pashtun females have shared with me.

      Question for you, Zarak Khana: so why do you think that a lot of Pashtun men suffer in the hands of Western Pashtun girls? What do you think are some of the underlying problems there? Any thoughts on the issue of (in)compatibility?

  2. Mostly the view is they won't be able to compromise/give up easily if life gets tough at any phase of marriage or adjust back home. Too liberal/modern not able to respect the traditions or follow one's family values.

    1. That's what I think, too - the assumption that the girls raised in the West are necessarily "too liberal" and won't respect tradition or family values, etc.

  3. To answer your question: I left for Pakistan to study pharmacology because we all know how cheap and time effective it is over there. I am now married to a man with whom I share the same career paths. Since our business is thriving well , we have decided to live in Pakistan for the time being.

    Onwards with the topic being one sided I have to say that it may not your fault because like movie or product reviews, people tend to bother themselves with posting like these when their emotions are moved a little too much. I know of a medical doctor in the US who is married to a ( BS educated ) taxi driver who then moved into business himself and they are very happy together. The key is to understand that being highly educated doesnt change the basic moral foundation of our lives. There are plenty of uneducated men and women who are very liberal and open in their views may it be social or political. There are many cases of successful marriages that come out of "imported" husbands/wives. I know my friend married a man from Pakistan when their family were unpleased with the local proposals. You wont hear the success stories because again, these aren't hot topics nor do they excite people during a gossip session. I was going to ask if you are married but I read another commenter was scolded at for that ^_^

    1. Thanks for the detailed response, Sana!
      I didn't mean details about your personal life :) I meant a detailed explanation about your insight into the issue.

      Again, I've hardly shared my own opinion on the issue, so I'm not sure what you mean by emotions' being moved a little too much (whatever "a little too much" means here). There's actually plenty of research on how marriage and migration work, what transnational marriages are (what I've termed "importing bride/groom" in this discussion), and what a reality it is for a majority involved. So I would caution that just because it may not be the reality of your or my experiences, it is for many other people. It is also for those who have shared their views with me (posted above in this post as well as in previous and upcoming ones). I welcome those views that contradict these experiences, however.

      I also don't think I suggested that education has everything to do with it. I know of plenty of girls in the U.S. who are not too well-educated but still end up in troublesome marriages when they marry men from back home because it's about the surroundings and norms we grew up to, not just our education. Family affairs also have a lot to do with it.

      Neither is it about being liberal or not. Again, I would like to emphasize the issue of compatibility, which is affected by many different factors, among which are the cultures of our parents, the society we live in (that outside our homes), people around us, the media, and education. Recognizing this, I hardly think anyone will deny that Pashtuns raised in the West tend to see marital issues differently than those raised in Pakistan/Afghanistan.

      Apologies for my assumption if it's wrong, but your conclusion that I'm not interested in "success stories" is inaccurate: again, I have stated plenty of times that I would like to hear as many different perspectives on this matter as people are willing to provide.

      That said, what I would be interested in hearing from you is not so much of what this discussion is lacking--although that's been noted and appreciated--but some detailed success stories (with no personal information), if you believe that's missing. My questions are the same, listed here: http://orbala.blogspot.com/p/pashtun-marriages.html (under the "Pashtun Marriages" tab at the top of the page). I expect we will avoid such deliberate misreadings in future critical discussions :)

      Thanks for your contribution, and I look forward to any other insight you're willing to share!

    2. Oh 0 I forgot to answer your question about whether or not I'm married.
      But, actually, I don't recall scolding anyone for asking me that before. I don't believe any question is unimportant - yes, there might be some irrelevant questions, but none are unimportant. I may have asked the person to explain to me why such a question is important in the particular discussion, but I doubt I scolded the person. In the impossible case that I may have, I'd like to apologize to the person!

      So, no, I'm not married. I am engaged at this point. He was raised in Pakistan, I in the U.S. His studies are nowhere related to mine, neither is his career. But he values what I study, I value what he studies; we have mutual respect and support for each other's career paths. (I think this tells you that your assumption that we're not interested in "success" stories isn't really correct.)

      The following is a note for anyone interested in knowing this:

      You see, people think that if you're unmarried, you don't know anything about marriage or how marriage works. But I believe that's an unfair and inaccurate claim. This discussion isn't about how marriage works: it's about how Pukhtuns find their mates, what they consider an ideal match, what is important to them, what they think about girls raised in the West and those raised back home, some double standards regarding girls and boys raised in the West, and so on.

      I became interested in the issue in May after attending a Pukhtun wedding, the details of which I should spare my readers here but might discuss in another post. The way the wedding took place--between a Pashtun girl from Afghanistan and a Pashtun boy from Pakistan (both were raised in the U.S.)--and the struggles they faced in getting their parents' approval was striking to me. But that's not a unique case: we see cases like that all the time. YET, they got married and seem to be doing great, mashaAllah. God bless their marriage infinitely, aameen.

      But there are our surroundings--our friends, family members, neighbors, acquaintances and their experiences. They fascinate me. Currently among western Muslims, this problem of marriage is a huge dilemma, and few are willing to talk about it because they don't want to appear "desperate," although they're in their 30s and are looking to get married. To me, there's nothing desperate about wanting to get married. I think the fact that they waited this long in hopes of finding someone they can be compatible enough with for marriage shows that they're not "desperate."

      But more about this another time :) For now, just as long as you get an idea of why this discussion was started and why it's important should do.

  4. One last request, Sana Jaan, if I may:

    Since an important part of this discussion on marriage is the perception of Pashtuns of girls raised in the West, what can you tell me about this? I mean, what kinds of things do you hear people saying about girls raised in the West? I'm sure there are some reasonable people out there who understand that it's never all (and never none), and that girls in Pakistan are not necessarily any "better" (whatever this means) or more "fit for marriage," but what do you hear? Feel free to give both the goods and the bads!


  5. I would totally agree with what Sana has said. One do get the perseption of one sided insight of the matter in this post. She is dame right about girls brought up in west. My emphasis has always been to let the same mentality marry each other. The thing is down to simple statistics when comparing girls from back home to westernised ones; meaning back home one in 10 is like the majority in west. I have recently come across this experience of comparison and really honestly it's shocking to hear westernised trying to find back home match. It's like Do every sin in the world and then after Hajj find your self a person back home cause now you are like her/him. On the other hand Visa is a requirement and let be honest parents in west know what their kids being doing and how's it's not according to their wishes so its them who search for a very needy greedy person so that imported stuff don't refuse and second itbe controlled

    1. Thanks so much for your input, Unuttered Wind! Greatly appreciated!

      I've been especially interested in male perspectives, so thanks a lot for your comment!

      You know of western-raised girls who want to marry men from back home? That's interesting. Most of the ones I know swear they won't marry anyone from back home; others are more hesitant to do so but will if they think the guy is compatible with them and will respect their differences, which they naturally expect will be many. The males that I know, however, most of them actually want to marry girls from back home--even though they (the males) have enjoyed all the things that Pukhtun females are accused of having done as western-raised.

      So, what can you tell me about what people say about Pukhtun MALES raised in the West? Do men ever get scolded for the things that women get scolded for? Why do you think that is? This question isn't necessarily for you alone; anyone can answer :)

      And, of course, what people say about Pukhtun FEMALES raised in the West. How many cases do you know of girls raised in the west who were actually really as bad as people expected them to be? Like clubbing, sleeping around, having boyfriends, walking around half naked, etc.? Do people actually know girls like this or are they just assuming that, since the West gives them that opportunity to do so? (I won't offer my own opinion of girls raised here, although I can say that what I've pasted in these last few posts from what other girls have shared, I tend to agree with them. That is, when we visit back home, they laugh at us for being so "simple" and are shocked that we actually know our language and culture very well, don't keep boyfriends/etc, don't drink, pray, and thinks like that.)

      That's the kinds of things I'm really interested in hearing as well :) Any thoughts will be greatly appreciated!

    2. Well as far my comment is concerned I wasn't talking about just one gender or a specific ethnic group. I don't consider Pukhtonz as some what different from the rest of human beings neither are they some sacred species. Before I get to your points, I would just add a request that instead of scratching the issues it's always a good practice to listen to other views, admit it and look for solutions; one should spend time in finding solutions to problems and not in explaining the problems. Regarding what people back home think about girls brought up in west, it's simple they don't have time for it, they have plenty of options available. And even if they have to, is only when it's needed like a guy is thinking to get exported or a girl is being imported. But the point is "need". Girls need to find a so called simple, nice and honest man back home after breaking with all their boyfriends. And yes as long their boyfriends are keeping their promise to marry them they don't think about marring back home. While guys think different, they think about their future family, their kids. They think that if they married their used up girlfriend their kids will be alike :) so they search for a nice, honest girl back home. So it's more of a business event then a marriage. Now back home concern is only family and not the guy or even girl to some extent. No matter what that western guy has been doing they won't refuse to him, depending on his family. It's different for girl well obviously she has to be from a good family or relative. It's well understood by this point that she is marring back home due to a reason, people back home after all are not idiots. So the deal is you get foreign visa or passport and the girl, in return of being exported. And because the guy has to be simple and for that matter NHS in UK do provide virginity restore surgery free of cost, to Muslim females, so it should be a win deal. But how good parents turn out to be in finding that guy is found later.
      Some of the points I want you to think about is the role of families. People who migrated to western countries were not just found of western culture, what background they were from and while searching matches for their kids what do they think has changed. Education has its role. People back home also laugh at guys who spent most part of their life abroad cause when they return they are not able to buy a pack of sugar from a local market on their own, it's not called being "simple".

  6. As unuttered said, sometimes a western pashtuns settles for an "imported" husband after exhausting her options with their western boyfriends. I am sure that's the case sometimes. But every western pashtun guy would argue that his sister is pure and innocent. But no, they are sluts all of a sudden when you are thinking about western pashtun girls in general? An important thing to note is that girls in the west have the oppurtunity to do whatever they want, girls backhome don't. Also, a girl in the west, quiet frequently, her parents worked an odd job at some point. Seeing their parents work hard to earn money makes them more humble as opposed to a girl from backhome, who is "da Khan loor" and thinks she makes the world go round. Ofcourse I am generalizing here, but I am trying to show flip side of the coin.
    I wouldn't deny that often times, people in the west tend to have a superiority complex. People backhome are sometimes easily impressed by fluent English, as it shows how "educated" they are. This is a tragedy stemmed from the colonial mindset of our people, including me and you. Many marriages doesnt work out because of the slut vs. fob debate. If a "madran" girl marries a "fob", she is not doing him a favor. Likewise, if a "shareef alak" marries a "girl with a past" he is not doing her a favor. Many of us do not understand that, and think that we could have done so much better. For girls, speaking pashto in a cute american accent is not enough for a successful marriage, its a misconception, don't blame your parents if it doesn't work out, you always have a choice. And for guys, think past the virginity, its a human being you are talking about.

  7. regardless of everything its no1s fault tht we go thru these bc were all raised wit diff mentalities bt all in all ur soo much btr off wit ur own kind a PASHTUN/PASHTANA!!!!!!!!!!!!! wallah its btr bc no1s gona love or appreciate or gt u more than ur own kind n honestly were good looking ppl lol so ur kids will b too haha


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