The Afghanistan you don’t see: Film lifts wedding veil on Afghan justice
Published: July 27, 2011
WASHINGTON – In the “What are we fighting for?” category, a new film offers a new entry bound to baffle the minds of many Americans. Imagine a place where a 17-year old girl receives a three-year prison sentence for premarital sex with a boy she loves, and where another woman cleverly admits to breaking religious laws to force her boyfriend into marriage, because it is her only hope of survival.
This is Afghanistan.
“Love Crimes of Kabul,” a new HBO documentary that premiered Sunday, follows a few women stuck in a Kabul’s Badam Bagh Women’s Prison with incredibly complicated tales. It is an engaging, informative, heartbreaking, saddening and frustrating look into Afghan culture that few of the almost 100,000 American troops deployed to fight there ever will see.
“With courtship, marriage and sex strictly controlled by an ideology of honor, a young girl can be arrested and jailed simply for falling in love, or running away from home, both of which are seen as akin to adultery,” the filmmakers said.
One innocent-looking girl accused of premarital sex and sodomy – watch the film to find out why – is doomed after her own father found her and a boy in a closet. Another a tenacious 20-year old woman awaits trial because her boyfriend refused to marry her after she became pregnant, so she chose to admit both their crimes and force him to the altar to escape jail. Another woman is stuck in the same cell as an old woman who had given her shelter then tried to sell her and now won’t stop badgering her to marry her son.
Watch how the state tries to get parents and elders from different tribes and economic stations to arrange marriages for their (quite materialistic) children in order to escape prison sentences and save the family honor. People should stick with their own kind, one mother says with disgust.
Watching these women, amid enormous disdain, try to have some control over their fates in an impossibly paternalistic slice of Afghan society is challenging. This is a justice system that sanctions court-ordered virginity tests as evidence.
See for yourself.
UPDATE: I've been told readers on DOD networks overseas cannot view the trailer clip on the HBO film homepage in above link. Instead, view the trailer on Bing, here.