by Itxaso Garay
They met in an ice cream parlor. She was working there for $95 a month, but dreamed of studying English and computer science; he secretly adored the corny love songs that drifted towards them in Afghanistan.
After quick glances, shy smiles, and murmured whispers, telephone numbers were exchanged in secret between the two teens.
Two years of late night phone calls followed before Halima Mohammedi and Rafi Mohammed decided they would elope in order to be together.
A group of neighbors found the couple in a car attempting to escape the city, and demanded to know what they were doing. The group of neighbors turned into a mob of 300.
Both Mohammedi and Mohammed were certain they would die in the riot that went on for hours.
In the end one man died in the violence, a police station was burned to the ground, and the couple was saved by authorities – who locked them in juvenile prison.
Mohammedi’s father visited her only to inform the police that he and his family would prefer if the government would please kill the two teenagers, who had disgraced their families.
An article in the New York Times reported that Mohammed said, “I feel so bad. I just pray that God gives this girl back to me. I’m ready to lose my life. I just want her safe release.”
The mother of the man who died in the riot blames the couple, but says their debt will be paid if Mohammedi marries the mother’s other son.
This incident mirrors an identical situation where two young lovers attempted to elope and were caught, like Mohammedi and Mohammed, but did not escape alive. They were stoned to death.
I read this article in the New York Times this summer in both fascination and disgust. I could not comprehend how such backwards thinking could still exist in the twenty first century, even in a conservative country like Afghanistan. However a similar struggle exists on our own side of the globe.
In places such as Afghanistan, inalienable human rights seem to be compromised, at least by our standard of natural rights. While reading the article I was shocked that a human could be treated that way by her family and her community.
I do respect the traditions of all people, including those in conservative Afghanistan, but I cannot tolerate such ignorance towards a concept as simple and true as love.
For this reason I am appalled by the hypocrisy of the United States: Americans attempt to say that we are in some way better than other nations because of the freedoms citizens enjoy, but then seem to ignore that the struggle of being with the one you love happens in our country on a daily basis.
Homosexual couples are still withheld this right just as Mohammedi and Mohammed were. Although it is illegal to stone someone for who they love, homosexuals face intolerance and narrow-mindedness from people every day because homosexuality does not agree with their traditions.
Before Americans judge the Afgan government and its society too harshly, they should first realize that many of our own laws and traditions are just as absurd and unfair. We cannot call Mohammedi and Mohammed’s situation in Afghanistan backward without also calling our own country backward.
I was shocked by the behavior of Mohammedi’s community and family, when I should have been equally as shocked, if not more shocked, by the behavior of communities and families in America towards homosexuality.
I believe that everyone has an undisputed, absolute freedom to love whoever they want to. I believe that America is no better than Afghanistan in securing this right to all its citizens.
Mohammedi and Mohammed are still being held in jail, away from each other; the same way that homosexual couples will never be able to marry unless Americans realize their own backward thinking.
Love in the 21st Century
by Itxaso Garay