A story of courage: Villager rescues women from brutal tribal custom

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The jirga’s bombshell did little to stifle Muhammad Nawaz’s hope. “No, not my daughters,” he said to himself. The aggrieved father from Sherkhera village in Peshawar district did everything he could to prevent his nephews from getting away with a marriage claim against his two daughters. He became a fortress against tribal insensitivity, and sought a trusted juror the next day.


For centuries, young girls in the northwestern tribes have shuddered at the word ‘ghag’. These naïve Pushtoon beauties never know when an innocent frolic in the surrounding meadows or mountains may cast a gloom on their fates. A tribal leader, or an influential enemy of their fathers, may set his eyes upon them and make a silent claim of marriage – which neither their tears, nor their families’ pleas could undo. This resolve of marriage, known as ‘ghag’ is binding upon the chosen girl and her family, lest she opts to remain unmarried all her life.

Early last year, Nawaz’s nephews Jehangir and Razzaq laid a claim of marriage upon his daughters Shaista and Razia. To Nawaz’s great dismay, the local jirga issued a hefty fine on the troubled father for humiliating his nephews by trying to defy the ghag claim. Greatly disillusioned, Nawaz turned to the state legal system, only to face yet another bummer: there was not a single clause in Constitution against the custom of ‘ghag’.

Legal experts say that in the absence of any confrontation from ghag victims’ families, no laws had been drafted. “Another reason is that that those laying down a marriage claim on a woman were always influential”, said Muhammad Essa Khan, an advocate of the Supreme Court.

However, Nawaz’s indomitable spirit came to the rescue of his daughters and several other girls. “A man of courage was needed to stand against the custom. Muhammad Nawaz served this need well,” said Khan.

Written By: Umer Farooq
continue to source article at tribune.com.pk

8 COMMENTS

  1. In reply to #1 by N_Ellis:

    Words fail me

    That ghag was still being practiced, enforced by the local jirga, and not deemed illegal for so long, need receive nothing more than a big, flat, “What.”

    That Nawaz stood up against his local jirga for his daughters sake, turned to the legal system, and persisted when that too proved insufficient, until the law was amended, is deserving of acclamation.

    (Jirga: A tribal assembly of elders performing judicial arbitration; apparently a tradition held in great esteem within the region. More kudos to Nawaz for going over their heads.)

  2. The horror for me is what this says about the place of women in their society that so many have gone before without protest.

    Until they understand that half (less gender specific abortions) of their society is not worthless there is no hope for their country or for that mater a fair society for anyone including the dumb guys!

  3. How does one respond when one lives a modern, rational life and is confronted with Dark Age mentality from so many parts of the world? Its like a bad time-travel movie.

    This is why its so important for as many of us to be ‘out’ as possible in order to embolden those who may not realize that ‘out’ is a possibility.

  4. “Hot Tub Time Machine” perhaps? Or worse “Islamic Hot Tub Time Machine” although it might be cleaner?

    In reply to #6 by limeynyc:

    How does one respond when one lives a modern, rational life and is confronted with Dark Age mentality from so many parts of the world? Its like a bad time-travel movie.

    This is why its so important for as many of us to be ‘out’ as possible in order to embolden those who may not realize that ‘out’ is a possibility.

  5. Each passing day I realize how ignorant I am about the ignorance there’s in the world. It took me time to learn the stupidity and contradictions of the Muslim world and I didn’t know this one yet: somebody wants to marry a girl and the girl’s family must accept the offer of marriage whether they like it or not. I wonder what’s next. Islam is a constant surprise. Hollywood should stop making horror films and should make the mother of all horror films: a documentary about the social customs of the Muslims. Many people could not bear it.
    By the way, today, March 13, 2013, I’ve read in a Spanish newspaper that seven boys in Saudi Arabia,accused of armed robbery have been sentenced- in a trial that lasted three hours and no lawyers-to be shot, it seems that after the execution the corpse of the gang leader might be crucified (?!). I also was ignorant of this custom.

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