History15 Dec 2010 04:29 pm
“Revenge is a dish best served cold.” –Ancient Pashtun saying.
Pashtunwali, “the way of the Pashtuns,” is a non-written pre-Islamic honor code that is followed by the indigenous Pashtun people that inhabit much of Afghanistan-Pakistan. Pashtunwali governs and regulates nearly all aspects of Pashtun life, ranging from tribal affairs to individual “honor” (nang) and behavior.
By adhering to Pashtunwali, a Pashtun possesses honor (izzat); without honor s/he is no longer considered a Pashtun, and is not given the rights, protection, and support of the Pashtun community. It is governed by the concepts of chivalry (or bravery, courage) (ghayrat or nang), hospitality (melmastia), gender boundaries (purdah or namus) and council (jirga).
With the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, some aspects of Pashtunwali have attracted criticism from the West, particularly with respect to its impact on women’s rights. Pashtun men are expected to protect Zan, Zar, Zameen (women, gold and land), and “losing face” is viewed as tantamount to tragedy.
A woman’s honor is closely tied to that of her husband and male family members in Pashtun society. If a woman earns a bad reputation, her whole family, which includes the men, is irreparably sullied. Thus, complete chastity among female relatives is essential to preserve the reputation of the family. Thus, women are restricted to private, family compounds in much of the province. Unfortunately, Pashtun injustice towards women doesn’t end there; women are frequently awarded as compensation in blood feuds, murdered in honor killings and are deprived of educational and health resources in the name of preserving female “honor.”
I don’t know about you, but an ethos that demands the subjugation of half of its population, by dint of one’s gender at birth, doesn’t seem very “honorable” to me….
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