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Rug Weavers and Bride Prices in the Northwest: Still expensive in spite of government and Taleban rules

Bride costs and wedding ceremony bills in northwestern Turkic communities are typically excessive, largely resulting from the reality that a lady’s carpet weaving talent makes her a high earner. Photograph: Thomas Ruttig, Qala-ye zal in Kunduz/2007

Weddings in Afghanistan are sometimes an expensive and ‘back-breaking’ affair. A government regulation to vary the expensive wedding ceremony tradition remains largely unimplemented and there seems to be little will to implement it. The Taleban have also imposed an assortment of rules for controlling wedding ceremony costs in areas beneath their command, which differ depending on the space and commander. In follow, their edicts have had restricted impression. This is notably the case in the Turkic dominated provinces of the northwest, the place bride costs and wedding ceremony ceremony prices are often driven up by a bride’s carpet-weaving expertise. On this dispatch, AAN’s Obaid Ali seems to be at the social tradition of weddings amongst the Turkic group and finds that in spite of government legal guidelines, Taleban strain and local initiatives, the culture of holding expensive weddings stays firmly in place.

A wedding in Afghanistan tends to be an expensive affair. There have been several attempts by the Afghan government, social activists and group elders, in addition to by the Taleban, to vary this tradition. While their attempts have had some influence in certain native communities, they haven’t led to a larger cultural shift.

Practices with regard to bride worth and wedding ceremony expenses are totally different for different ethnic groups, communities, and areas (see additionally AAN’s earlier report here). The ‘bride price’ in the northwest, as an example, shouldn’t be a mahr (dowry), a sum of money that ought to be given to a bride by her groom as a monetary pledge and which stays the property of the bride. Somewhat, in Turkic communities the place ladies are often employed as professional rug makers, the bride worth is called qaleen.

Bride prices and wedding ceremony bills in northwestern Turkic communities (together with provinces like Faryab, Jawzjan, Sar-e Pul, and Balkh) are typically high, largely on account of the reality that a lady’s talent makes her a high earner. Furthermore, in the Turkic group (e.g. amongst Uzbeks and Turkmen), an expensive wedding ceremony celebration is considered an honour for both the groom and bride’s households.

Weddings in Turkic communities

The qaleen for a rug-weaving bride in the provinces of Faryab, Jawzjan, and Balkh tends to range from 15,000 USD to 25,000 USD. The worth variation is usually affected by the fame of the family and the expertise of the lady. Skilled ladies weavers from these provinces are well-known for his or her means to supply some of the most sought-after and onerous to seek out rugs in the nation (pay attention, for example, to this famous Afghan track about rug weaving in Jawzjan province). The talent involved in producing such rugs signifies that they are typically bought even before they are accomplished or on the market. The high costs of such carpets signifies that a potential groom can anticipate a comparatively affluent life. Subsequently, the bride worth a groom has to pay is considered to be not just for the woman herself but in addition for the revenue her unique talent will provide for the relaxation of their lives as husband and spouse. As a result of of the additional high prices of the qaleen and wedding ceremony celebration for expert brides, it is truly very troublesome to find a rug-weaving lady to marry.

When a groom’s household initiates a marriage proposal for a rug-weaving lady they face big expenses. Though the high asking worth is usually an indirect approach for the bride’s household to discourage unsuitable marriage proposals, in many instances this does not forestall the groom’s family from persisting. The groom’s aspect will typically attempt to negotiate the value right down to a manageable quantity. Nevertheless, high curiosity in a specific bride and her expertise signifies that her family can insist on the worth and even add further wedding ceremony prices. These embrace the costs of the marriage and wedding ceremony events, in addition to gadgets that the groom’s household must present.

An inventory of gadgets

In lots of northern provinces, the bride’s household submits an extended listing of gadgets that the groom should buy. The record typically consists of jewellery for the bride, clothes and presents for the bride and her shut relations, meals for the visitors, different bills of the bride until she leaves her father or mother’s residence and a guarantee that the groom will provide two fully-furnished rooms for his bride. The groom’s family is then left with two options: to simply accept the circumstances or to step away from the negotiations.

Haji Khalilullah Azizi, a former speaker for Sar-e Pul’s provincial council, described weddings among the Turkic group as kamarshekan (‘back-breaking’). He informed AAN that an strange wedding ceremony for a lady without carpet weaving expertise, including the qaleen worth, averages a total of at the very least 1,500,000 Afs (19,000 USD).Qubuddin Kohe, an area journalist and a civil society activist from Faryab province, stated that the qaleen in Maimana metropolis, Faryab’s provincial centre, normally exceeds 800,000 Afs (almost 10,000 USD). He added that the groom should submit the money in a quantity of instalments earlier than he gets married. He informed AAN that there had been several makes an attempt by social staff, the educated era, and group elders – both at the local and national ranges – to advocate for lowered wedding ceremony bills. Their efforts, nevertheless, had solely had a limited influence.

Durtaj, the district governor for Khan Charbagh district in Faryab, stated the high qaleen prices have compelled some women to flee. Chatting with AAN, she stated that since her appointment in mid-2017 greater than ten instances of women who had fled their house “largely due to their parents’ unwillingness to marry them for a lower qaleen” had been registered. She advised AAN that the majority of these women ran away with their companions of choice to a hiding place. Group elders then needed to mediate between each households, typically convincing the woman’s family to permit her to marry the boy in any case. In different instances, women fled to local government-run ladies’s shelters, refusing to return to their families until their mother and father assured their safety and safety. In the worst case, she stated the women might face dying if captured by their mother and father, because of harsh traditions and the perceived injury to their family’s status.

If a groom’s family can’t present sufficient money for a qaleen, they will supply livestock and different goods throughout the engagement interval as an alternative, notably in rural areas where goods are acceptable foreign money in the marriage market. The remaining of the wedding ceremony bills, similar to jewelry for the bride, clothes for her and her shut family members, as well as food for friends ought to still be paid for and prepared by the groom’s household.

In line with Haji Khodai Dad, an area elder from Faryab who has mediated several negotiations between brides and grooms’ households, as quickly as the bride’s family accepts a groom’s family proposal and has fastened the worth of the qaleen, any goods the groom sends to the bride’s family counts as cash. The worth for these things is calculated based mostly on their local market value. This isn’t, nevertheless, with out occasional hassle. Haji Khodai Dad stated that a quarrel erupted just lately between two families over a dairy cow that was despatched to the bride’s household, which stopped producing milk after a pair of weeks. The difficulty was taken to village elders for a decision. They determined that the cow ought to be bought and the groom’s family should add money so that the bride’s family might purchase another cow that would produce milk.

In most of the Turkic-dominated provinces of the northwest, the bride’s family agrees to rearrange the nikah (a authorized contract between man and lady to marry) during the engagement celebration. After the nikah, the groom becomes a mahram (the male companion for his bride) and he can meet and typically keep at his bride’s house. In response to Durtaj, throughout the engagement interval, which may final a number of years, the bride might already turn out to be a mom of two or three youngsters. This pushes the groom to work even more durable, as he not solely has to earn the qaleen, but in addition has to offer food and clothes for each his spouse and youngsters while they’re nonetheless in his father-in-law’s house. Some of the grooms who take a very long time to submit the qaleen not only deliver a bride back to their household’s house, but in addition an already established household.

There seems to be a common reluctance to surrender on expensive wedding ceremony parties. For the Turkic group, expensive weddings will not be solely a social demand but in addition a chance: for the groom to make a name inside the group by holding a exceptional wedding ceremony, and for the bride’s household to extend their status by having secured an expensive wedding ceremony for his or her daughter. This has unfold an ideology among villagers that, for the previous couple of many years, has compelled them to take a position in monumental weddings and excessive qaleen prices. But these expensive weddings also imply that grooms have to start out an extended and troublesome journey to earn cash. They typically depart the nation for Iran or Turkey, where they spend years working to economize, which may delay a wedding ceremony for years.

The government regulation on wedding ceremony ceremonies

The Afghan government revealed a marriage ceremony regulation in the official state gazette in December 2017. The regulation consists of clauses on the bride worth and ceremony bills. Based on article six, the bride’s family and family members can’t drive the groom to pay a bride worth as a condition for getting married. The regulation additionally limits the quantity of visitors at a wedding get together: article ten says the groom and bride’s households might maintain the wedding ceremony celebration in a wedding hall or a restaurant, but shouldn’t invite more than 500 individuals (full text in Dari and Pashtu right here).

In line with Azizi, Sar-e Pul’s former provincial council speaker, the local government isn’t critically committed to implementing this regulation in the Uzbek dominated provinces of the northwest. He advised AAN there have been no outreach teams or public awareness programmes to tell individuals about the new rules. To implement this wedding ceremony regulation, the Afghan government would in all probability face critical problems as it will see itself confronted with the expectations of friends and the pursuits of the affluent wedding ceremony corridor business. (1)

There have been some native initiatives in Faryab, Sar-e Pul and Jawzjan provinces to reform the pricey wedding ceremony culture, which have seen restricted results. In some elements of Faryab’s provincial centre, Maimana, local elders say they have achieved a minor shift in that the qaleen. Here, wedding ceremony expenses are stated to have been decreased from a mean of 800,000 Afs (almost 10,000 USD) to around 400,000 Afs (around 5,000 USD). Comparable efforts have taken place in some elements of Jawzjan and Sar-e Pul provinces. In line with Durtaj, the local government has held several gatherings and carried out campaigns to scale back wedding ceremony bills in native districts. She advised AAN, nevertheless, that because of the insecurity, these efforts had solely affected district centres and nearby villages. (2)

Taleban restrictions and rules on wedding ceremony ceremonies

In some areas, based on local sources, Taleban rules and restrictions have been being enforced as an alternative of the government’s regulation. These Taleban rules on wedding ceremony ceremonies are largely enforced by their local vice and virtue committee, referred to as the spiritual police, tasked with implementing Sharia regulation. The rules themselves appear to range in totally different elements of the country, as does their enforcement. There seems to be no common or national Taleban regulation with regard to wedding ceremony ceremonies.

On the subject of public awareness of these disparate rules on weddings, the Taleban use native mosques and public gatherings to tell individuals and announce new restrictions, as well as the penalties for many who violate them. Taleban laws which were introduced in elements of Faryab, Jawzjan, and Sar-e Pul provinces embrace that:

  • The bride worth shouldn’t be greater than 200,000 Afs (2,650 USD);
  • Males and ladies must be segregated and/or attend wedding ceremony parties at totally different occasions;
  • Enjoying music and recording videos is prohibited;
  • The bride and groom ought to receive only three fits of clothes every (normally the bride’s household asks for as much as 20 fits of garments for the bride and, in return, prepares 5 to ten suits of clothes for the groom).
  • The marriage ceremony should happen in the groom or bride’s household residence;
  • The quantity of friends ought to be low (there’s, nevertheless, no requirement to actively scale back the number of invitees, since it’s understood that villagers will typically attend the social gathering with out official invitation);
  • The food for friends must be easy food, widespread amongst villagers: palao (rice with meat).

In follow, in the Taleban-controlled areas of Faryab, Jawzjan and Sar-e Pul provinces, locals typically obey the Taleban’s rules in public but ignore them in personal. For instance, in Taleban-controlled areas, though the qaleen is introduced as low in public, each households will typically negotiate a confidential cope with a better qaleen.

Even in the government controlled areas of Faryab and Sar-e Pul the local Taleban has tried to stop individuals from holding events in wedding ceremony halls. In July 2017, as an example, the Taleban issued warnings towards wedding ceremony halls in the provincial centres of Sar-e Pul and Faryab. Chatting with AAN, Mahsuma Ramazan, a feminine provincial council member for Sar-e Pul, stated that because of these warnings, the wedding ceremony halls in her province remained closed for a couple of months (see this media article). She stated it was a transparent indication of the Taleban’s affect on individuals’s social lives even in government-controlled areas. Ultimately, the wedding ceremony halls reopened. It was unclear whether or not this was because of a deal between the Taleban and house owners of the wedding ceremony halls, or whether or not strain had merely subsided. (three)

Provided that in Turkic communities wedding ceremony ceremonies often happen in the bride and groom’s houses anyway, with out a lot strain to carry the get together in a wedding corridor, the impression of this specific restriction is restricted. But different features of the wedding ceremony ceremony that the Taleban attempt to regulate are a standard follow amongst locals, including the qaleen negotiation and cost, stay music during the social gathering, and the video recording of the wedding ceremony ceremony. The Taleban rules, if enforced, would thus certainly impression the ways the Turkic communities marry in the northwest.

In response to Sayed Fazel Agha, a former member of the Sar-e Pul provincial excessive peace council, neither the government regulation on wedding ceremony ceremonies nor the Taleban’s laws have been being obeyed by the inhabitants, no less than not in his province. Wedding ceremony bills, he stated, thus remained a critical concern within the area people.

Conclusion: The fee of excessive bills

Despite the government regulation on weddings, Taleban strain and local initiatives to vary the expensive wedding ceremony culture, the phenomenon of expensive parties and excessive qaleen costs stays firmly entrenched within the Turkic group. This comes at a excessive value, in specific for the subsequent era. The need to meet qaleen prices has prevented many young males from learning, as they need to work and get monetary savings to get married. The excessive qaleen expenses additionally slender the bride’s options for what she will do together with her life, as she is underneath strain to continue rug making as an alternative of pursuing different attainable futures. Although she might have entered into marriage with seemingly excessive status, in reality, her marriage merely strikes her as a worker from one rug making manufacturing unit to another for the remainder of her life. Thus far, neither the government regulation on weddings nor the Taleban rules have solved this drawback. Each legal guidelines and laws are largely ignored: at greatest noticed in public and ignored behind closed doorways; at worst, brazenly flouted.

(1) The marriage halls in Kabul, for example, situated just a few kilometres away from the Ministry of Justice, host hundreds of individuals every night time in luxury wedding ceremony events with expensive meals. In line with a wedding corridor manager from Kabul, the prices for the wedding ceremony get together’s menus ranged from 400 Afs (5 USD) to 1200 Afs (16 USD) per head. He stated they might not host parties with fewer than 500 friends, since getting ready food for fewer individuals wouldn’t permit them to make a revenue (see as an example these pages for wedding ceremony halls in Kabul here and right here which show a clear lack of consciousness of, or refusal, to obey articles 17 and 18 of the regulation that limit the wedding ceremony menu worth to 300 Afs (4 USD) and the quantity of friends to 500).

(2) At the nationwide degree there are ongoing efforts to scale back wedding ceremony bills by holding mass wedding ceremony ceremonies, for example in Kabul, Herat, Balk and Bamyan provinces. These ceremonies, organised by charity foundations and local businessmen, are aimed toward shifting away from the expensive wedding ceremony culture (see a media report here, here, here, right here and right here. However there’s little signal of such initiatives in the Turkic communities of the northwest.

(3) Throughout the Taleban regime (1994-2001), holding a marriage celebration in a corridor was prohibited. Wedding ceremony ceremonies in wedding ceremony halls, nevertheless, have an extended history in Kabul and other huge cities. After the Taleban’s government collapsed, weddings have been once more held in halls, and the quantity of wedding ceremony venues in Kabul alone now stands at over 200.