Society and norms – Family and Family Life: OVERVIEW
Family is of utmost importance in the Afghan culture. Extended families typically remain together for life. Communication and socialization are limited almost exclusively to the extended family.
Nepotism – brothers taking care of brothers; a hook up; quid pro quo – is a normal, expected way of life in Afghanistan (and throughout the Arab world). The word for this is Wastah (WAH-stah). Wastah is how Afghans get by in a harsh environment. Who one knows and how one takes care of their family and friends is important in all aspects of life: in government, in educational institutions, in business, in marriage, in personal relationships, wastah is universally applied.
Family bonds and family honor are sacred among Afghans. Family honor determines the family’s status in society. Family matters are extremely private. To bring shame upon an Afghan family will almost certainly result in some form of retaliation or revenge. When a female family member is shamed, the retaliation may literally be a matter of life and death for both her and the offender. Afghan wives are seldom pictured in photos.
Among Afghans, respect comes with age for both men and women. In homes where the eldest is a female, she will command great respect, but a teenage son might still be regarded as the decision maker. While Afghanistan’s society is patriarchal (led by males), women are highly revered and central to family life. From the Western perspective, the Afghans’ attempts to preserve female and family honor are often perceived as a lack of valuation of women and a disregard for women’s well-being. In addition to age being respected, in Afghan society, women achieve respect and status by becoming mothers.