Afghanistan | Collective and strict wedding for 70 couples in Kabul

(Kabul) White dress and a giant green shawl for the women, traditional tunic for the men: Some 70 couples were married Monday in Kabul, Afghanistan, during a joint ceremony that allowed them to meet at a lower cost in the presence of Taliban gunmen to unite .

Posted at 3:14pm

Jay DESHMUKH
Media Agency France

Large dowries, numerous gifts, lavish parties: A wedding in a large hall in Kabul costs between 10,000 and 20,000 US dollars on average, a colossal sum in one of the poorest countries in the world.

For several years, many couples have chosen to unite without spending such sums during joint ceremonies.

This movement has grown since the Taliban came to power last August. The freezing of billions of assets abroad and the subsequent sudden halt in international aid have plunged the country into a severe financial and humanitarian crisis.

“I do not have work. We were short on cash,” Esmatullah Bashardost, 22, a member of the Hazara Shia community, told AFP, one of the brides and grooms at the ceremony, one of the largest of its kind recently witnessed in the country.

“No young man today wants to bear the burden of an expensive marriage […] It is difficult to manage these expenses,” says Ebadullah Niazai, who has waited eight years to marry.

The organizers did not want to give any information about the cost of the ceremony. Several charities provided the couples with essential household items.

All the brides and grooms wore a white shalwar kameez – the traditional Afghan tunic – under a sleeveless blue waistcoat, their heads covered with a small flat white hat with a slit across the forehead.

The brides all wore a long white dress under a large shiny green shawl that completely covered the head and part of the body.

Separated spouses

The husband-to-be and wife-to-be remained separated throughout the ceremony, as did the hundreds of male and female guests, who were held at bay by a dozen armed Taliban fighters.

Invited to cover the ceremony, journalists were allowed to photograph and film the brides-to-be but not speak to them.

Since returning to power, the Taliban have largely barred women from public employment, restricted their right to travel and denied girls access to college and secondary schools.

In early May, the Taliban supreme leader also issued an edict that women must cover themselves fully, including the face, in public, ideally with the burqa, a full veil with a mesh of fabric at eye level.

Before the arrival of the Taliban, weddings in this deeply conservative nation were often occasions for festive and colorful ceremonies, complete with dancing, traditional songs and music, and some degree of mingling between men and women.

Since the return of Islamic fundamentalists, large weddings are still allowed, but music is banned.

During their first regime, between 1996 and 2001, the Taliban banned ostentatious marriages.

On Monday, guests were only treated to poetry recitations and speeches from the charities that hosted the ceremony.

A red and white wedding cake was prepared for each couple and placed in front of the male bride and groom.

Despite these austerity measures, Esmatullah Bashardost said their wedding would probably be the “happiest day” of their lives.

At the end of the ceremony, the bride and groom, each carrying a plastic plaque with their name on it, left the scene with their brides in cars decorated with flowers and ribbons.

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