Bamyan youth finding love on a mobile phone
BAMYAN CITY (PAN): A number of young people in the central province of Bamyan are dating and finding marriage partners on their mobile phones, which is causing concern among traditionalists in the province.
Although there is no mobile phone coverage in half of the districts in the province, mobile phone dating is on the rise among youth eager to outsmart their parents and find their own life partners.
Zohra, 35, a resident of Bamyan, said she met her husband six years ago when he phoned her and professed his love. “Six years ago I got a call from a boy, who expressed his feelings and said he loved me. After I talked to him on the phone for a long time I finally agreed to marry him.”
Zohra was of course hesitant when she received the first call. She refused to talk to the boy who she did not know, but when he kept calling, she finally agreed to go out on a date with him.
When they met, the boy told her that he had seen her some time ago at the bazaar where he worked and had fallen in love with her. Then he asked one of her relatives for her phone number.
The boy asked to marry her, but at first she refused. He kept asking her on the phone and managed to convince Zohra that he was not trying to deceive her and truly wanted to share his life with her.
However, Zohra’s parents refused, and she felt compelled to make the decision on her own.
“Even though parents have rights, I also have the right to choose my life partner, and that is why I married this boy. Now I have a happy life with him and we love each other so much,” Zohra said.
Maliha, 17, from Bamyan, did not think she would get married so early, but she also met her partner via the phone.
“I was receiving phone calls from a boy. After few conversations he introduced himself and we arranged to meet at the bazaar. Finally we met and agreed to get engaged.”
When Maliha met the boy, they both promised to talk with their families about the marriage. When the families agreed, they got engaged, she added.
Maliha’s father said that they had no idea about the relationship, but when they heard about it, they were supportive of her choice.
“Parents are responsible for their children and have to choose a good life partner for them as they know how important that is. Therefore, parents focus on finding a good man for their daughter in order that she will live a happy life,” he said.
Most of the time, girls choose the wrong man and their decision turns out to be a big mistake which ends either with a bad relationship or even divorce, he added.
Fatima, head of the family violation department at the police headquarters in Bamyan, said the use of the mobile phone had played a major role in reducing the number of forced marriages.
In previous times, many girls did not have the right or permission from their families to choose their husbands. However, the situation has changed, she said, and girls are exercising their choice to marry who they want.
Abdul Ahad Farzam, head of the human rights commission in Bamyan, said there were no statistics on how many girls had found husbands through mobile phones, but he acknowledged the technology was playing a role and was helping couples to have better relationships.
Even though there were still complaints registered with the commission about forced marriages and domestic abuse, he said that happened due to a lack of public awareness.
This year, there had been only one case of forced marriage registered with the commission, he said.
Marzia was 11 when she was forced to marry a man 20 years her senior at the demand of her parents. The decision led to hard times for her, she said. “My husband is violent and abuses me,” she said.
“I had no idea of husband and wife relations at that time, so when the mullah told me about the marriage, I was told that he would pay me 50,000 afghanis ($1,100) for me to say "I do", which is why I let him marry me,” Marzia said.
However, her husband did not pay the full amount but has only been giving her 5,000 afghanis a year, saying she can spend it all at once or make it last the year. “My husband is not paying for my expenses nor will he give me a divorce,” she said.
Most marriages in Afghanistan take place according to community traditions: parents choose the partners, without asking the boys or girls. In very few cases girls are able to select their husbands.
Mohammad Ismail, director of Civil Society Network and Human Rights in Bamyan, said almost 90 percent of marriages were forced, which meant not only depriving a girl of her right to choose who to marry, but also at what age.
“In the previous years, due to forced marriages, there was lots of violence in the families. Women endure the abuse and in most cases, it led to divorce,” he said.
“The fundamental point is that boys and girls have the right to use any legal activity and resource in order to find a life partner without anyone’s interference,” he said.
There are some however who feel that mobile phone communication is not the most suitable forum for finding a marriage partner.
Mohammad Reja, culturist, said parents should have prior knowledge about each other families before a couple wed.
“Decisions about marriage should be taken carefully. If an engagement takes place only through phone communication and there is a lack of information about the background of the families, it might lead to divorce,” he said.
He said he knew of two marriages which took place following mobile phone communication and both ended up in divorce.
Girls in Bamyan province have less access to phones compared to boys and some citizens think their use can corrupt them.
“The use of mobile phones is not good for girls, as because of their misuse, many girls have developed bad and immoral relations with boys,” Ahmad Zia, a resident of Bamyan, said.
Some have even fled their homes with their boyfriends, he said, he added.
Ahmed Zia, a high school graduate in Bamyan, said he had heard of a few cases of couples who had run away together, but could not give any names or details.
Mohammad Yousaf, a religious scholar and member of the provincial council, said: “If the usage of phone is for evil activities, it is forbidden, though valid communications are fine.”
Azizullah Hamidi, head of telecommunications in Bamyan, said 59 % of the province had mobile phone coverage.
About 35 percent of the province’s 600,000 population had access to a phone about 0.1 percent had access to the internet, he said.
Download “Pajhwok” mobile App, on your smartphone to read and access latest news, features, interviews, videos and photos about Afghanistan.