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PESHAWAR: Documentary on ‘Swara’ screened

July 17, 2003

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PESHAWAR, July 16: A 40-minute documentary on the widely practised custom of Swara in the NWFP was screened by Aurat Foundation at the Peshawar press club here on Wednesday.

The documentary has been made by an anthropologist, Samar Minallah over a period of two months.

Ms Samar had to travel to remote areas of the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (Fata) and settled parts of the Frontier province, such as Mardan, Swabi, Swat and Karak to shoot the documentary.

Swara is a custom in which a girl is married into a family whose member has been killed by the girl’s family.

Beginning with some glimpses of Pukhtun hospitality, the documentary showed many young women who had become victims of Swara. It was evident from the interviews of women that Swara was very much part of the Pukhtun culture.

“I was forced to marry a man by my father to settle a murder dispute at a very tender age. Later on, my husband also committed a murder because of which he wanted to give my daughter in Swara to the rival group, but I plainly refused because I didn’t want to destroy my daughter’s life,” said a woman.

There were also comments from tribal elders in the documentary, many of whom were critical of the custom.

“ The basic aim of this custom was to settle the murder disputes between two families,” said a tribal elder.

However, the documentary showed that Swara never played a role in establishing cordial relations between two clans.

The documentary showed that some of the victims committed suicide in order to escape the wrath of their in-laws.

“Such girls are destined to go through immense ordeal because they are not respected by their in-laws and are treated with disdain.

The killers should be made accountable and not their daughters,” said a scholar from Mardan.

“Islam doesn’t permit marrying a woman without her consent,” he said.

A judge of the federal Shariat Court said that Swara was not an Islamic custom.