Fahima, a 28-year-old originally from Bamiyan Province, enjoyed the relative freedoms available to her while a refugee in Iran. After the fall of the Taliban she returned to Afghanistan with her husband and soon learned that his family expected her to abide by strict traditional rules of behaviour. She was able to evade her in-laws’ pressures for a while as she lived in a flat with her husband. However, as their economic situation worsened, they were forced to move in with her in-laws. Her in-laws’ insistence on controlling her life – preventing her from seeking education, visiting her parents or choosing her own clothes – became so intolerable that she fled to her paternal home. After a few days she was warned that unless she returned she would be divorced and would not receive the outstanding portion of her mahr, the payment due to brides on their marriage. Left with few options, Fahima approached the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and was referred to NRC.

The NRC counsellor found it difficult to proceed with her case given her inability to produce a formal nekah khat – a marital contract setting out the agreed level of mahr. Fahima registered her case in the local family court and produced two witnesses able to affirm her claim to her mahr. The court quickly ruled in her favour. She received the agreed-upon mahr and was given custody of their one-year-old daughter following her husband’s decision to divorce her. Fahima hopes the money she has belatedly received can help her to continue her studies and increase the chances of being able to herself decide how to lead her life.