My mom called me to thread the machine needle for her. Her sight has been suffering. As I sat there watching her sew my pillow cases that I have been stubbornly asking to be done as soon as possible, she brings up my latest proposals and the consequences of staying single in Afghanistan. She gently nudged me that I am not taking my future seriously, because of course the only proof that I am taking my future seriously is if I consider marriage and not my career and the projects I have been working on.
Moments later, my younger brother came into the hall and started a rant about how my older sister in law is not dressing conservatively enough and that “how dare she sit in the front of the car when there’s a man who’s also riding along.” Well, of course a major argument from my side followed about how she has every right to sit in the front seat, regardless of who the other passengers are. I still hadn’t fully recovered from morning’s lecture and argument, which I should be able to take as they are routine, some guests rang the doorbell.
This group of guests was mostly our distant cousins. Among them was a girl named Freshta. I had heard about her before, but never met. She was wearing relatively bright-colored skirt and blouse of not an ordinary design. She had a pretty scarf on, long hair and a sweet smile. For the first part of the conversation I was busy serving tea and then fruits, but very quickly their conversation caught my attention. She was talking about her in-laws, I would have thought she’s too young for marriage. But she was married when she was 16 and she had a six-year-old son now. She sprinkled her story with laughter, a story that was her seven year walk through hell. Beaten, tortured, house imprisoned and what was her last straw was rape threat from her father in law, which everyone in the family including the husband would do nothing about.
What amazed me the most was that this young girl had absolutely no one to watch over her or support her to help heal her wounds. Every time she had complained about the beatings and the torture, she was told “Well, your husband’s house is your house and you should make it a home.” Her family repeated to her an ancient saying: “You leave your parents’ house in a white dress and you leave your husband’s in another. One is your wedding dress and the other, your coffin.”
Instead of supporting her and standing up to the abusive husband and his family, Freshta’s brothers had gone over and apologized for her complaints. The torture and violence had continued until she stood up for herself and said I will not be raped and ran away from her husband’s house. It boggles my mind, what’s the value of a girl’s life in this part of society. Is she just a servant at her own parent’s and then a slave at the husband’s?
In one house, a woman argues for her right to stay independent and make her own life decisions, in another she’s forced in a marriage where she faces violence and the threat of rape. What is the difference between these two women and their families and what is preventing me from having Freshta’s fate? Despite the wide range of women’s issues and struggles, I can’t escape the feeling that no matter how far we go, we end up being seen as someone’s property. In my life, having an education and an income of my own has changed that to some degree. I have more say in my life than many others, but doesn’t a woman who hasn’t had an education deserve the same rights?