‘Idle’ Afghan girls married off

A school ban turns teenaged girls into brides.

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) — Thirteen-year-old Zainab should have been shopping for a new school uniform this autumn but, with no prospect of girls’ schools reopening in Afghanistan, she was instead forced to pick out a wedding dress.

Since the Taliban seized power in Kabul and banned teenage girls from education, many have been married off — often to much older men of their father’s choice.

“I cried a lot and kept telling my father that the Taliban would reopen girls’ schools,” Zainab said.

“But he said that’s not going to happen, and it’s better that I get married rather than sit idle at home.”

Her wedding date was fixed within hours of the would-be groom arriving with an offer of a few sheep, goats, and four sacks of rice as dowry, a centuries-old custom for many in rural Afghanistan.
As is traditional, Zainab moved in with her new in-laws and husband who is 17 years older than her.

Together with economic crisis and deep-rooted patriarchal values, many Afghan parents have accelerated the marriage of teenage daughters who have been mostly confined to their homes since the Taliban stopped their education.

“At my parent’s house, I used to wake up late… here, everybody scolds me,” Zainab told AFP from the Taliban’s power base of Kandahar.

“They say, ‘We have spent so much on you and you don’t know how to do anything’.”


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