a young Afghan girl is forced to marry
Pashtun swara is a tribal custom still practiced in some parts of Afghanistan today.
In Pashtunwali, taking revenge is important for maintaining honor. In the tribal justice system when a murder is committed, the elders of the tribe get together and try to resolve the matter.
According to custom the most lasting and effective form of settlement for a murder is called swara. It is the giving away of a girl to the victim’s family in marriage.
The idea is that her sons will replace the one murdered.
The aggrieved family accepts the girl and considers the obligation of revenge fulfilled, and their honor preserved.
Without swara, the dispute will result in a series of revenge killings that can go on for generations. Swara protects the males of the family, but the girl is ostracized and stigmatized for the rest of her life.
Maryam’s father murdered a man who taunted him for not acting like a true Pashtun. In settlement, little Maryam was sacrificed.
Before she had outgrown her dolls, she was led away to her husband’s home, deprived of any wedding celebrations. There she spends her life without honor, as payment for her father’s crime.
She is not invited to participate in any family celebrations. She walks a tightrope, and any mistake is blown completely out of proportion.
She is a constant reminder to the family of the member that they have lost and she is treated accordingly.
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