Love Crimes Of Kabul — A Review

I just watched this documentary called Love Crimes of Kabul (if any of my readers are interested in watching it – and I strongly recommend that they do – the full film can be accessed here on YouTube; it’s a little over an hour long but well worth it). Anyway, as I was watching this film, I couldn’t help thinking just how utterly obsessed everyone was when it came to sex, but most importantly of all, girls keeping their hymens intact to ensure purity and inviolability. Now, before my readers jump to any conclusions, I want to make it very clear here that I am not, in anyway, condoning pre-marital sex. Not at all, actually.

However, in Afghanistan, premarital sex is not only religiously forbidden, as per the country’s Islamic beliefs (Shar’ia Law), but it is also illegal. And young women and men who do happen to engage in sexual relations before marriage are punished severely. So, while some are simply thrown into prison — given sentences that go up to ten years — others, on the other hand, especially when they commit adultery, are blatantly stoned to death.

Love Crimes of Kabul follows the stories/lives of three young women in the Badum Bagh Women’s Prison in Kabul, Afghanistan. And I have to say that while I was expecting to watch yet another extremely depressing documentary about the ways in which women are oppressed, especially behind bars; this documentary, however, pleasantly surprised me! I mean it was nothing like what I’d expected; the stories that were shared were sad, distressing, and troublesome, yet, at the same time, they were very fascinating and sort of sexy in a way. And their life in prison did not seem so bad either; they ate amazing food; were allowed to have their children live/stay with them; and they were always gossiping, laughing, and just having a lot of fun, even with the guards (who were also women, mind you)! But then things always seem peachy on the surface, don’t they? And it would be unfair of me to simply judge “prison life” on what I see in a documentary, which could also be staged for all I know.

So, anyway, the first woman the documentary introduces is Kareema – a pretty dimpled bold and outspoken 20-year-old Hazara woman whose crime was that she’d fallen in love with a man, had pre-marital sex with him, and was now carrying his child. During her interview in the film, she did mention that they were engaged to get married, that she loved him very much, and that she hoped to marry him soon. I personally thought that the most interesting part about her story was that she was not caught and turned in by outsiders/relatives; but rather, she, herself, went to the authorities and turned herself in! Brave much? And her reasoning: well, her fiancé had refused to marry her partly due to her “loose” character, but mostly due to pressures from his parents, who disapproved of their relationship all along, simply because they did not want their son marrying a Hazara. Her fiancé was a Pashtun and it appears that in Afghanistan, if a Pashtun marries a Hazara, it is looked down upon. It’s a sad reality, but it’s the truth, it seems. So, as a result of her fiance’s family disapproving of her (as well as her fiancé admitting in an interview that he’d wished that he’d never met her and that he didn’t love her), Kareema retaliated by turning herself in to the authorities (for having had premarital sex) which also lead to her fiancé’s arrest. And the only way he was to be released was if he married her. Her wish to marry her fiance, of course, does come true eventually, as the film progresses. But I thought that the way she went about getting what she wanted was extremely brave, especially for a woman living in such a country like Afghanistan; albeit she practically forced the man to marry her (which I am against, of course, for no one should be forced into doing something they don’t want/desire). She also admitted that she wasn’t afraid to get divorced, yet she also made sure that she demanded enough money so that in case they did get divorced, she would be able to fend for herself. Here, I admit, I was pretty impressed with the way she handled the whole situation. (I won’t spoil the film for my readers any further, but f you watch the film, you’ll see what I mean.)

Anyway, the thing I fail to comprehend is why has peoples’ personal lives become such a concern of public authority? It’s almost like a Big Brother kind of scenario, where peoples’ every move and every action is monitored, especially when it comes to their sexual relations. There seems to be so much obsession with sex – and the control of it – that when stories of pre-marital relations and conceiving children out of wedlock arise, people become utterly barbaric and do not know how to react to them. And, again, I am not saying that I condone such behaviours nor am I saying that I support/encourage them, but I just feel that there is no need to throw young couples into prison on account of it, nor even murder (not kill) them, just because society believes it to be wrong. We are all humans at the end of the day. We all have desires. We are not perfect beings. And mistakes happen. But punishment and death is not the answer! It’s never the answer. The fact of the matter is that, no matter how much we try to suppress such behaviours and scream that it’s wrong, it’s immoral, and that it is forbidden, the more young people will be lured towards it and will do it, in hiding; thus throwing all caution to the wind. Force and suppression is never the way to go about these things. Rather, it’s better to educate young people about sex and about the consequences of it, instead of brushing the whole issue under the carpet because any talk of sex and what happens between men and women in the bedroom is forbidden, for it is not something to be discussed with kids (that are old enough to understand) so openly and freely.

Further, I’ve come to realize, both through personal experience (especially on my recent trip to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa) and also through other peoples’ experiences, that our women more often like to gossip, joke, and tease other women when it comes to sex (and would do so for hours on end), but they will never discuss it with their children – especially those who are old enough to comprehend it. Sex is so taboo; so wrong; yet the desire to engage in it is de rigueur. Men marry more than one woman, and while they claim that it is for other reasons besides satisfying their sexual appetites, I somehow never buy that claim. No man is saintly enough to take on a virgin wife, who happens to be 25 years younger than he, just so that he can care for her. While “care” may be one of the reasons, it is never the only reason!

Oh, and speaking of virginity, there also appears to be this whole other obsession with virginity and chastity. And absolute deep importance is often given to it, for to be a virgin is to be “holy”; and the longer a woman, especially, preserves it, the better she is off: personally, socially, morally, psychologically, and most importantly of all, maritally. This obsession with virginity is depicted in the documentary through the second young female: 18-year-old Sabereh, who also belongs to the Hazara tribe. She is a pretty little petite young woman, whose crime was that she, too, like Kareema, had fallen in love with a boy and was caught kissing him at her house. However, it is emphasized repeatedly that she is a virgin (yes, they do medical tests on her in order to prove that!), so her case seems to be a little uncertain. For according to the law, since Sabereh was still a virgin, she did not really commit any “moral” crimes.

Nevertheless, the outcome of her so-called crime did not turn out to be too positive, as compared to Kareema’s, despite the fact that it was proven that she was “pure” and all. Instead, they start to accuse her of engaging in sodomy, i.e. anal sex, which according to Islamic law is far worse than anything imaginable. I do not want to spoil it for my readers, who do intend to watch the film, so I won’t delve any more into her story. But, I just find it troubling that medical tests were done on Sabereh in order to determine whether she was a virgin or not. And even that wasn’t enough; it’s like if a man and a woman remotely meet, then that must mean that they’ve had sex or at least engaged in some form of sexual activity. Everything is always assumed, and hardly proven (unless it is deemed absolutely necessary; otherwise, it’s all solely based on assumptions). What if her hymen had broken without sexual penetration, but through other inexplicable means? Of course, in our society, a broken hymen automatically means that the girl is not a virgin, regardless if she has had sex or not. The hymen, hence, is the sole determinant of a young woman’s chastity and virtue.  It’s like her life is bound to it. Whatever she does, whomever she speaks to, and wherever she goes, her hymen is the first thing she has to protect and put into consideration before anything else. She has to guard her hymen with her life; and if she doesn’t (for example, if she gets raped), then that simply means that she failed to protect it, hence making it all her fault (of course, it is never the male’s fault if a woman gets raped; ever). So, yes, her whole world basically revolves around the fact that her life depends on her hymen; as a matter of fact, her life is her hymen!

Anyhow, the last woman we are introduced to in the documentary is 23-year-old Aleema – a divorced woman who lives at home again with her parents. But because she had a curfew and found her living conditions to be rather abusive and controlling, she decided to run away from home and sought refuge with a woman (as old as her mother) named Zia. However, when she gets caught, not only is she sent to jail but Zia is also blamed and sent to jail with her. And one of the reasons that Zia is sent to jail is because it was claimed that she tried to sell Aleema, hence exploiting her for sexual favours. Of course, they (the authorities) have no proof whatsoever to make such a blatant claim against her. Further, they also blame Aleema for having had some sort of a sexual relationship with Zia’s son – who’s married already and has a wife. And it is proclaimed that the only way that they both (Aleema and Zia) would be released from prison was if Aleema married Zia’s son, hence becoming his second wife. I guess the fact that Aleema was living with Zia, knowing very well that her son lived with her too and the possibility of sexual relations could develop is, in my opinion, the main reason for her arrest. The people who arrested them were probably wondering why Zia would allow a young, un-married (divorced, in this case) woman to live with her, knowing  very well that she had run away from home (and possibly with her son?). The funny thing is that the person who turned in Aleema to the authorities was actually Zia’s son’s first wife, which hence makes it even more flagrant that something must have been going on between Aleema and Zia’s son. Yet, again, there is never any concrete proof provided; it’s all based on assumptions and assumptions alone.

Hence, in the film, we see how Zia tries her very best to convince Aleema to marry her son, so that she could be released. But, Aleema, bold and outspoken, like Kareema, refuses to budge for she knows very well that Zia can’t afford the dowry she feels she deserves. She also knows her son can’t provide the lifestyle she yearns. Aleema further thinks Zia wants her for her son only because she can get her cheap because she’s a divorcee and hence not pure (a virgin) any more. (Virgins, when getting married, are granted much more expensive and lavish weddings that cost around $7,000 to $8,000!) As a result, Aleema feels insignificant and refuses to partake in anything that will make her feel even more cheap and worthless, than what society already thought of her.

Here, I must say just how incredibly sickening I find the way divorced women are perceived in our society – making it seem like being divorced is some sort of a disease; a pestilence! And that those women who walk away from marriages, for being abused (either physically or emotionally), are worse off, as this one woman worker told Aleema, in one scene: “A bad husband is better than no husband.” And as much as I do NOT agree with this statement at all, this is what most, if not all, women believe and strongly abide by. Anyway, there is much to say on this topic and I am currently working on a piece dedicated to this “issue” of divorce among Pashtuns, so I’ll be sure to share that in my next blog post or so. Promise!

I hope my reader does not hate me for giving out so much in-depth details about this documentary. I know this post contains lots of spoilers, but again, I am sure I must have missed out some parts from the film; so again, I’d strongly urge my readers to check out this documentary and form their own opinions and conclusions from it. There is indeed much to learn from this, and while it was entertaining and not as depressing as I expected it to be, it definitely depicts a side of Afghanistan that we don’t often see; if ever. I commend these three extremely brave women for coming forth and sharing their fascinating, yet distressing, stories – stories of passion, love, desire, and deception.  And yet, despite the hardships, the pain, and the loss each and every woman endured, they managed to brighten up the cameras with their colourful laughter and beautiful bright smiles. And while the Love Crimes of Kabul comes off as entertaining, simply because the stakes don’t seem as high, and the situations come off as humorous instead of harrowing, it might just not be the worst kind of oppression.

Yet, it is still oppression. And that we cannot deny.

11 responses to “Love Crimes Of Kabul — A Review

  1. i read your post about love crimes in kabul.m totly disagree to u.i know we all do sex by hidding.but we cant say that the islamic rules are bad or unhumanity.same cases were also reported in the holy prophet time.they were punished in the same way.if it is a cruelity then why holy prophet allow that tell me sesapzai????????
    Broadmind dose,t mean we tried to change the islamic rules,yes we everyone do sex male or female but we should toba,we shouldn,t say that pre martial sex is our right.sespazai if u teach the people that afghani doing wrong,u comited a sin.m sure

    • Dear Ayaz wror, thank you so much for your comment. Well, I am glad to see that you disagree with my article, for I do not expect ALL of my readers to agree with me; otherwise, it not only gets boring, but it leaves no room for debate/discussions, and I live for these things, ’cause it not only helps me understand why certain people think the way they do, but it also helps me learn things I may have never known before. So, by all means, disagree as much as you want for I encourage it :-)

      Anyway, coming back to your comment, I never said that Islamic rules are bad or inhumane in my article, for that is the least of my concern. I just stated it, but I never said it. So, I’d suggest you re-read my article ;-) Also, I never said that pre-marital sex is a “right.” I am sorry if that is the impression that you got from the article, but I did state it not only once, but TWICE, that I do not, in any way, condone pre-marital sex (condone means support, just in case you were wondering), nor do I encourage it. However, I will never judge someone who decides to engage in it. To each his or her own. However, throwing youth in jail or punishing them severely (in worst cases, death) is NOT the way to going about to solving this, er, “problem.” The thing I’d like to understand is that since Afghanistan claims to be such a “religious” country and seems to comply with strong “moral” conduct, then why are people not saintly enough to refrain from things that are considered “wrong,” “taboo,” and “immoral” in Islam? Don’t you agree that if you’ve been raised in such a conservative, highly religious society, you’d expect the youths to be as prim and proper as ever? Yeah? Well, not necessarily. And I’ll tell you why. The reason is because we are human. We are NOT saints. It’s a sad reality, but it’s the truth. No Muslim is a saint. And never will be. And as humans we make mistakes; for like you said, that humans do engage in pre-marital relations in hiding. It’s inevitable. But is jail or death simply the answer? Will that automatically erase the problem all together? Don’t you think people will still do it, hoping they don’t get caught? Why not educate these youths instead? Why not explain to them that sex before marriage is not a good idea because of so and so reasons? Why instil fear in them when we know very well that most won’t even care, as long as they can get away with it? You know what I mean?

      Anyway, I hope I made my point clearer. If you have any more questions or concerns, then do not hesitate to contact me. Khushaal wossey! Staso khor. :-)

  2. i agree with ur some points but you know well that rape and sex ratio in europe is much more then islamic countrie,what is the reasion behind that?
    It is due to the hard islamic rules which prevent people to doing so.
    At the end i would like to say that,we have never any right to commens on any islamic rule which passed by the holy prophet(peace be upon him) even stone to death.its all about a peacefull socity if we follow heartly.
    God bless you,

    • I deeply admire virtue. A person who places our creator over their own selfish desires will never regret doing so (and in so- doing, they place others before themselves)… however, when old age sets in, and “time” becomes something you can actually grasp… a person who has indulged in their self-seeking, sinful desires will spend their last days in deep sorrow and regret. my heart breaks for them, as they have let this “world” fool them :(

  3. Hello, I wanted to make two comments. First, was to applaud you on all that you have accomplished and on a very well written article. I have plans on watching the movie. I chose to get a divorce and raise my sons alone rather than stay in a marriage where my life and sanity was threatened. At the time I was in Pakistan, however I was born in US of A. Its not the location that effects the thought processes because my family ( except for my sister) chose to believe him and disowned me for awhile. No matter where you go, the cultural thought process is embedded so deeply that “honor” becomes more important than the safety of your own children; but not for me :)

    The second comment I wanted to make was to address Ayaz Khan’s last comment regarding rape in Europe and the Western world compared to the Islamic Countries. SIr, have you ever considered that the variance in the numbers is due to the harsh punishment placed on the victim ( i.e. the woman) in the Islamic country? In the non- Islamic country, she is given justice and in the Islamic country she is ostracized and blamed.

    I find that the US of A is a lot more Islamic in the way that my sons and I are treated than when I was in NWFP.

    Please continue to build this blog…..you have a follower in me

    • salam,with na name of allah,i would like to say to my sis shehnaz that i have also sister.i can understand your sorrow and pain. i tottly condemn that kind ofactivities,m not condoning unhuman behaviour with women.but it is true that in our society that kind os cases reported every day,but u have to accept that islam give a very high rank to woman,in the shap of mother,sis,and wife,.but according to ur views,wesrern are well mannerned then muslims, is not true,u are talkind about ur divorce,which is daily routain in westren,.they daily change there wives,even open relationship.they dont need to torture to their wives,cause if they think that they cant manage,just divide theire child and make another couple just like animals.u give important to these peoples where fahter cant ask to his daugher why she engeged pre marital sex..?i know all girls from all over the world like that kind of society,but its results very harmfull.u know better then me what happing there.i hate that.m sorry if u mind.but in our society wife and husband remains togather till death.
      In ur case,i got influence,may be u r too broad minded like western,which is not accepted here.
      U should think before marriage that m going to totly differen society,can i be adjust there?if yes then u should be obey ur husband rules. After allah husband is a right on u.if u think that i cant earn my life according to islamic rules then u disobey Allah pak,husband is a minor thing.if possible dont think about divorce please.
      may Allah give u strengh,and cure.
      God bless you.

      • Ayaz bro, thank you again for your comments. While Islam may give high rank to women, we have YET to see that in practice. No one seems to follow the Islam that you claim. In almost every single Muslim country, we see women suffering, either privately, behind closed doors, or publicly (public-stoning, rape, honour-killing, etc.). Women are always to blame for every single thing. And Ayaz bro, you can’t say that rape and sex ratio is much higher in Europe/West than in the East. I think that is extremely narrow-minded thinking. Rape and pre-marital sex exists EVERYWHERE. Just because you are not exposed to it first-hand, does not mean that it does not exist. Most of these cases, especially in Muslim societies that are highly conservative, are simply shoved under the carpet. No one speaks of it. Girls who do have pre-marital sex, get pregnant, or simply elope/run away with a man, are secretly killed by their fathers/brothers/uncles. This is what we call “honour-killing.” (I am currently writing an article on this, so please read that as I will be quoting statistics and will try to be as accurate as possible.)

        However, I am not saying that rape does not exist in the West. It does. It certainly does. But like our dear Shahnaz sis said, women in the West have RIGHTS. They can go to the police and say that they got raped. And the police NEVER wastes time in finding the man who raped her and throw him in jail for many, many years without going on parole. Can you tell me honestly that a woman in Pakistan, or better yet, in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa will also get the same treatment, as those women raped in the West? I mean if a woman in Pakistan gets raped and she goes to the authorities, they will only blame her and say that SHE lured the man and did not cover herself, and that she is to blame for being raped. And what happens to the rapist? Well, he runs scott-free, without having to worry about going to jail or getting punished. Now, please tell me how unfair this is? What’s even worse is that IF the girl was a virgin and she was raped, her parents will go INSANE! Not only will they blame the girl, but they will even go as far as killing her!

        As for husband and wife staying together till death…Well, I am sorry, but I don’t agree with you. Even though, I, myself, am very happily married, I won’t shy away from ending the marriage IF I feel that I am no longer happy in the relationship. No one, not man nor woman, should be bound to a relationship, especially when one feels extremely miserable in it. How is that even a marriage then? A marriage should be based on mutual love, respect, and understanding. But if one person is happy, while the other person is dying a slow painful death (not literally, but emotionally and mentally), then why should that person suffer and stay in the marriage? It’s better to get out of it and live life happily, rather than having to put up with it. I KNOW ideally, we all picture a marriage to be perfect, where the wife and husband are happy and perfect, where they live a perfect life, free from fights and disagreements; but in the real world, that is hardly the case. Hardly.

        Also, why should a woman obey her husband’s rules? He is not God. I personally believe that a husband and wife should respect each other and obey each other EQUALLY. They’re both human and they’re not superior than the other; in no way or form. Are you married, btw, Ayaz bro? Do you expect your wife to OBEY you? What if she asks you to obey something she wants? Would you agree to it? Would love to read your thoughts on this matter.

        Take care and appreciate your comments! You should subscribe to my blog too with your email, so you can be up to date on any future posts I write. :)

    • Dearest Shahnaz! First of all, I love your name! I think it’s absolutely gorgeous. Second of all, thank you so very much for dropping by and for commenting! You seem like an incredible woman. I also really appreciate your sharing your story with us. I think it was very brave and strong of you to get out of a marriage, knowing very well that if you’d stayed in it, it would have been a slow, and rather painful, death. I personally believe that a woman should end a marriage if she’s unhappy. Why stay in it when the man who “claims” to love and respect you, treats you like you’re beneath him and something to use and abuse. It’s better to have NO husband than be married to a beast! So, I really commend you, jaan! You are an example for women, who are suffering in marriages, but are too afraid to leave it, in fear that they will be labelled, or worse, shunned by their families. I know it is a very difficult decision and never an easy one, ’cause we’re always told, or rather conditioned, into believing that marriage is sacred; that it’s for LIFE; that we should always OBEY our husbands no matter how badly he treats us; etc. But, I think it’s time that women put their foot down and said,”Enough is enough!” No woman should stay in a marriage, simply because she’s afraid of what society will think of her. Sorry to be blunt here, but fuck that!

      I also LOVE the fact that you put your children before you, above all. It goes to show that you’re a very caring and selfless person. I’d love to know more about you. Are you Pashtun, btw? Email me at sesapzai@gmail.com. You seem like the type of person I’d love to know and befriend. It’s rare enough I meet incredible individuals like yourself. Also, if you don’t mind, I’d love to quote you in this new article I’m working on called: “A Bad Husband Is Better Than No Husband?” Of course, if you don’t mind of course. Since you’ve experienced it first-hand, it would be great to learn your personal experience and perspective on the subject. I know it’s a very, very sensitive topic and I hope you’re not offended by my asking to quote you, but just thought I’d ask you anyway. From the few words you’ve shared thus far, I feel like I could find a sister in you. :-)

      Also, thank you so much for subscribing, jaan! I really, really appreciate! Would love to read more of your thoughts on my other posts/writings! Do you write/blog too, by any chance?

  4. salam ,with the name of Allah,dear sesepzai,m always not happy to debate in opposition,but ur comments forced me to speak,i realy respect u as a pushto speaker,the language with a immense attraction.no m single 17 y old,but i lived 34y in these 17y.
    Again on the toppic .holy quaran says,Allah give priority to man over woman.if u believe quarn then no need, any argue on that,
    if u have a less knowledge about islam(as u live in canada)then i request u to consult the Holy Quaran and Ahades books rahter then wesrern books.u just bring me one Ayat or Ahades which show that women are allow to go out from there houses,unveil in other words burqa(u mention again and again)
    these rules are not man made, Allah says.yes ofcourse i will fully support u to fight for women rights,if u fight according to the islamic rules.but what is this u miss guide and provoke a innocent estern girl for divorce?using offensive language(f++k that)
    u are a nice artist u have a unique standered,what need to use that kind of wording??
    Insteed provoke women u should guide youngsters which may make a new society.i also work for women rights in my village level,but not like u,as islamic ruls.i strongly condemn violence ,i guide my friends to allow there sisters to continue study even jobs.my sis also doing job in a bank.
    Pukhton society is called society of man,u will find opposite results if u provoke women ,should work on men.
    M so sorry if i hurt u but it is true,cause m very close to this society.
    God bless u

  5. i ask a question from sespzai,which i should ask very before,are u mulim or adopting any other religion?tell me truly reply me yes or no,no philosiphical answer ok

  6. According to Islamic law they cannot be punished or found guilty as it requires four witnesses to actually see the act being performed with there own eyes, which is impossible but sadly so called Islamic states ignore these rules and mostly women are blamed and punished for it (unmarried women becoming pregnant due to this even raped one’s can’t prove there innocence) as men are freely roaming around and can’t be proven guilty.
    Mostly men manipulate women and have no intention to commit or marry as its time pass or lust for them in most cases. Everyone makes mistakes and it happens and exists everywhere after all we are humans and get tempted everyone does. Forcing them to marry isn’t even acceptable in Islam as both are equally responsible and have no right on other to force one another for marriage.

    Nabi [sallallaahu alayhi wasallam], Allah states, O mankind, if your sins reach the sky and you seek forgiveness from me, I will forgive you and it would not matter to me.

    The Hadith makes mention of forgiveness of a person who killed 99 people and the lady who committed adultery.

    Its not our job to judge anyone as its there individual matter and between them and Allah.

    Peace :)

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