High dowries, lavish weddings prompt migration in Afghanistan’s Khost province

In southeastern Afghanistan’s Khost province, exorbitant dowries and costly weddings are driving young men to migrate abroad for work.

Local youths report dowry demands reaching two million Afghanis (over $26,000), a daunting amount for those with limited job opportunities and earning capabilities in the region.

Sanaullah, a Khost resident, expressed the plight of local youth: “With no jobs available, many are forced into migration to afford dowries. We urge the (Taliban) government to assist in reducing dowry amounts.”

Echoing this sentiment, Hamidullah, another local, added, “The high dowries are unmanageable for the youth. We hope for a reduction, allowing more affordable weddings.”

Besides dowries, the youth face pressure to host extravagant weddings, often inviting hundreds of guests, even for home ceremonies.

Dowry expectations range from 500,000 Afghanis ($6,700) to 2 million Afghanis. Locals believe lower dowry demands could imply a lesser value placed on the bride.

Religious scholars, however, criticize these practices. Zia al-Rahman, a cleric, stated, “From an Islamic perspective, demanding excessive dowries is forbidden. It’s a woman’s right to decide without external interference.”

The engagement period, ideally a joyous and significant life stage, becomes burdened with financial strain.

The Taliban’s ministry of vice and virtue has instructed mosque imams to preach against excessive dowries, as confirmed by Abdulwase Islam, head of hajj and religious affairs in Khost.

High dowry demands are a longstanding tradition in many parts of Afghanistan. Despite efforts to reduce or eliminate this custom, it remains deeply ingrained in social traditions, with little sign of change.