30-year-old Krystal Ashley says she and Rayi Khan are similar to a "modern day Romeo and Juliet" after they kindled a relationship in spite of their contrasting backgrounds.
Ashley, who works as a teaching assistant, was raised in a conservative family and admits that she was once very intolerant of Islam following 9/11.
Meanwhile, 31-year-old Khan is a Muslim who fled Kabul for Paris to escape the Taliban.
"Not at all in my wildest dreams did I expect that I was going to fall in love with someone from Afghanistan," said the English tutor. "I had grown up in a very conservative home, and after 9/11, I jumped on the anti-Muslim bandwagon that was going on in the States.
The pair's unlikely romance began in July 2016 when they met through friends during a soccer match in Paris, where Ashley was volunteering with a Christian nonprofit.
"It's a complete 180," she continued. "My first impression of Rayi was just that he was super soft-spoken and he just seemed super gentle and kind, and I did find that kind of surprising.
SWNS – Blur is at the request of the subject and was a condition of the pictures on the SWNS newswire.
They kept their relationship secret at first and Khan still hasn't told his family because they are unlikely to accept his new girlfriend – especially since he was forced into an arranged marriage at the age of 16.
Ashley, from King and Queen County in Virginia, said Khan being married was an issue for her at first, but she has come to accept it because the marriage is null in France.
Additionally, she says the relationship has challenged her to become more open-minded.
"I tried to keep [the relationship] a secret from everyone I knew because most of the people I knew were very conservative Christian, so it was quite the scandal. On the other hand, his family basically would never accept me.