Forbidden Love: A Shakespearean Story with a happy Ending

Forbidden Love: A Shakespearean Story with a happy Ending

Categories: Conflict | Culture | Nations | Society

Afghanistan is one of the few places on the planet where killing for the honor of the family is still considered acceptable. Even today, Afghan women are not allowed to look at strange men or be in their company on pain of death.

When Zakia fell in love with a man of another religion and nationality and was going to marry him against her father's will, her family members swore to kill the girl and her chosen one. According to the majority of the people of Afghanistan, such betrayal actually deserves death.

Forbidden Love: A Shakespearean Story with a happy Ending

Fortunately, Zakia and Ali managed to avoid this fate.

Their story begins here, under the gaze of the Bamiyan Buddha.

Forbidden Love: A Shakespearean Story with a happy Ending

The Bamiyan Valley, taken from a niche where one of the Bamiyan Buddha Statues

Climbing over the wall and running into the mountains is not the most ingenious plan. Frankly, quite stupid, considering that Zakia's clothes were not at all adapted for cold nights in the mountains. But what can you do - her wedding was about to take place and she wanted to look beautiful.

Then, on the night of March 20, 2014, it was not the first time that Zakia thought about escaping from the Bamiyan women's shelter. He had been her refuge and her prison since the day she decided to run away from home in the hope of marrying Ali. She has already spent six months in the shelter. Her courage had failed her so far. The other two girls Zakia shared a room with didn't sleep either. She knew they wouldn't move until she told them. And although the girl was terrified and did not know if she would have the courage to leave, she understood that she had less and less time and chances.

Forbidden Love: A Shakespearean Story with a happy Ending

February 2014. Zakia at the Bamiyan Orphanage

Her father Zaman and her mother Sabza, all her relatives and cousins — they should have abandoned their lands and farms and devoted their lives to hunting Zakia and Ali, publicly swearing to kill them for betrayal. Others would have suffered too. A rabbi from New Jersey, who barely knew how to pronounce her name correctly, put his life in danger by representing the interests of the girl in the US government. Fatima Kazimi, who heads the Ministry of Women's Affairs in Bamiyan, could have been suspended and exiled to Africa for helping Zakia escape death at the hands of her own father.

Forbidden Love: A Shakespearean Story with a happy Ending

Fatima Kazimi, Head of the Ministry of Women's Affairs in Bamiyan. She helps lovers escape from family revenge, leave Afghanistan and get asylum

The Bamiyan Valley is located in the central part of Afghanistan, 200 km from Kabul, between the impassable Hindu Kush Mountains. The city of Bamyan, the capital of the Afghan province of the same name, occupies two small plains on the southern side of the valley. The lower plain is packed with low clay houses. They are not much different from those that were built here 3 thousand years ago. Mixed with them are several new concrete buildings, shops and markets. To the south is a wide plateau on which the local airport is located. It was built either by Japanese or Chinese engineers and surrounded by a whole string of asphalt roads, in fact leading nowhere. Among the terminals and stone buildings of the airport there is a shelter that Zakia is going to leave.

On the best days, Bamiyan received 4 hours of electricity a day. At that late hour, all the electricity was turned off — the city was plunged into pitch darkness.

Forbidden Love: A Shakespearean Story with a happy Ending

The village of Chindawul near Kabul. This is where the couple hid before Ali was arrested. The pale yellow building in the foreground is the Pamir Cinema. Ali was detained nearby

Forbidden Love: A Shakespearean Story with a happy Ending

Niches where Bamiyan Buddha statues used to stand

Forbidden Love: A Shakespearean Story with a happy Ending

Zaman, Zakia's father, with three younger children in his native village. The photo was taken before Zaman moved to Kabul to track down his own daughter

Ali was waiting behind an earthen wall that surrounded the low buildings of his family farm, located on the far side of the valley from the orphanage. The passage through the village of Surkh-dar, where Ali lived with his family, was the only chance for lovers.

Forbidden Love: A Shakespearean Story with a happy Ending

Ali's parents, Anwar and Chaman, together with their newborn granddaughter Rakia. September 2015

Will she call him by name or pronounce the traditional Dari "you" (Dari is one of the two official languages of Afghanistan. - Editor's note)? Zakia is the only girl, apart from his mother and sister, from whom he heard his name. Three hours ago, she called and said that tonight she would be able to escape to secretly marry him. But it wasn't the first time she'd said that. Zakia promised to call when she was near the wall.

It was getting close to midnight, there was no call. Ali was beginning to lose hope.

"I was afraid she was playing with me, just joking. And he's not going to run at all," Ali says. He tried to call Zakia several times, but the phone was out of range. The young man put his mobile phone in a high recess in the wall so that the signal was better. Then he went back into the house and lay down on his mattress, leaving the window wide open despite the cold. Ali didn't want to miss the call.

Forbidden Love: A Shakespearean Story with a happy Ending

Ali at his parents' house in Surkh Dar in 2015. He was still hiding from Zakia's family

Forbidden Love: A Shakespearean Story with a happy Ending

Armed Ali is working in the field. February 2015

Forbidden Love: A Shakespearean Story with a happy Ending

Armed Ali is working in the field. February 2015

The women's shelter in Bamiyan is run by the UN. Girls who, according to local laws, are considered fallen come here for help and shelter: they choose their own husband, run away from their family or raped. The main condition of the stay is that the girl is granted asylum, but she must not leave the territory of the shelter while her case is under consideration.

Forbidden Love: A Shakespearean Story with a happy Ending

Ali's father, Mohammed Anwar

Forbidden Love: A Shakespearean Story with a happy Ending

Ali's father, Anwar, on the bridge over the Kabul River the day after his son's arrest. He doesn't know what to do, and he has absolutely nowhere to go

Zakia jumped off the wall. Pursued by the barking of dogs, she ran towards the Buddhist niches. On the way, she stopped to feed the dogs a piece of bread and thereby silence them. After that, she immediately called Ali.

Forbidden Love: A Shakespearean Story with a happy Ending

Zakia and Rakia. September 2015

Forbidden Love: A Shakespearean Story with a happy Ending

The house of Zahra and Haji Abdul Hamid, where Zakiya and Ali went into hiding twice

Forbidden Love: A Shakespearean Story with a happy Ending

This picture of Ali and Zakia on the run has become a cult. It was first published in The New York Times. Many Afghan artists draw pictures inspired by this photo

Forbidden Love: A Shakespearean Story with a happy Ending

A husband and wife holding hands are not often seen in Afghanistan. Especially in public places

Now they were holding hands.

This may seem like a small thing. But in In Afghanistan, courtship is forbidden even among engaged couples, and for a man who has never heard his father call his mother by name, holding a girl's hand is a gesture from another world. An important event of a new happy life.

Ali and Zakia managed to get married, and for the next few months they were on the run, hiding in small mountain villages. They got into Kabul shortly before Ali was arrested on kidnapping charges. Then Zakia again found herself in a women's shelter, where she waited for her husband's release. There, at the shelter, she found out that she was pregnant. Now the young family is trying to get refugee status and a visa to leave Afghanistan and go to Europe. They still have to hide from Zakia's family, but both hope for the best.

Forbidden Love: A Shakespearean Story with a happy Ending

Chaman, Zakia with a two-month-old daughter and Ali. February 2015

Forbidden Love: A Shakespearean Story with a happy Ending

Ali with his daughter Rakia at his father's house, in the village of Surkh-dar. September 2015

Forbidden Love: A Shakespearean Story with a happy Ending

Zakia and Rakia in Ali's house, 18 months after the wedding

Keywords: Afghanistan | Women | Laws | Marriage | Love | Family | Traditions

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