Fariba is just 17. She was a high school student not long time ago. But now she is a married woman, and her husband is a 53-year-old man who has another wife and four children.
She said she was forced to marry weeks after the Taliban took power in August.
“I looked like his daughter when I got married,” she said. “I did not understand anything.”
Fariba said her husband promised her family that he would take her to the United States within weeks after the wedding. But instead, he brought her from northern Faryab province to Kabul where she has been living since then.
She claims her husband is violent and she has nowhere else to go and complain because the Taliban have abolished the laws that protected the women and dissolved most women’s rights organizations.
“He kicked and punched me so hard twice that I felt like I was no longer alive,” she said. “Life is worse than hell for me.”
Forced marriages continue to happen in Afghanistan, despite the Taliban supreme leader’s order instructing his government to end it.
“Consent of the adult woman is necessary in Nikah,” said Haibatullah Akhunzada in an order he issued in December.
Nikah is a religious ceremony that binds husband and wife.
Behishta, a 24-year-old woman, said she obtained her bachelor’s degree in economics, and planned to study her master’s degree abroad. But her family forced her to marry a relative without her consent after the fall of the former government because they feared the Taliban fighters may marry her by force.
“I studied for sixteen years, and all were multiplied by zero because I can’t work or study outside,” she said. “My husband and his family are religious, and they are against girls’ education.”
No data is available about the number of forced marriages since the Taliban takeover. Women rights activists say the number has increased without providing any statistics. Some families are marrying off their daughters because they fear the Taliban may marry young single women by force, others do it due to poverty and starvation, according to activists.
There is little to no evidence of any forced marriage involving the Taliban, despite these allegations.
Sanam’s mother said she had seen the Taliban forcing women to marry their fighters in the 1990s. Fearing, they may do so the same again, she pressured 20-year-old Sanam to marry.
“I saw in front of my eyes in Afshar neighborhood of Kabul that the Taliban were taking girls by force,” she claimed. “I insisted my daughter marry, so her fate would not fall into the Taliban’s hands.”
Suhaila Madadi, a Kabul-based women’s right activist, said the lack of women’s advocacy organizations, a weak economy, and illiteracy are the reasons behind the rise of forced marriages.
“We will witness a tragedy if forced and underage marriages are not prevented,” she said.