Afghanistan tells very sad stories

I was very torn last night. It happens sometimes. Afghanistan tells very sad stories. Even prayer recitations in mosques during this Holy Month sound like songs of mourning, faint from a distance, but persistent. I don’t like it. I don’t sleep very well for most nights. I don’t know what it is.

Last night we heard 3 consecutive explosions. We heard no news of it the next morning. When incidents happen at night, no one reports it. I hear things now. Right now…..I am quite sure, soon we will hear airplanes flying ahead, like yesterday. I just asked M if she hears anything and she said ‘yes, bomb, bomb, bomb.’  Its continuous. Kate told me this week is a very tense week. I didn’t know that as I don’t get news in English. Election results are rolling out, and when riots happen they become very dangerous.

A few days ago, I was at an interview. My interviewee, a young passionate Al-Azhar graduate delayed her other meetings because we were really involved in our discussion. We ended our discussion with her getting tissues for herself. We both teared during the interview and I left the interview wondering if really the world was more beautiful than cruel, or vice versa….or if I really had to ask that question. She told me a story of a young 9 yr old girl who was forced by her brother to marry a 42 yr old man. The night of her marriage, he raped her until there was no division left between her vagina and anus. She bled for many many nights and is still very traumatised until today. The doctor told my interviewee she would have problems with passing motion for the rest of her life and she was not capable of bearing any babies. My interviewee had brought the case to court, calling for the imprisonment of both the victim’s brother and husband, a divorce as well as maintenance for life. The qazi (judge) ordered a divorce but after a bribe, the prosecutor dropped the case against both the brother and husband. When she told the story, she sounded so helpless, so affected by her inability to do anything more. We always ask what can we do, what more, how…

Kate told me something today. She said : don’t try to understand; just quietly, low profile; work with the women and the young girls; they have to take this journey alone; all you can do is provide knowledge, hope and support…..

M told me stories of her family last night. We sat and whispered quietly by the window. We both cried, she more than me. Stories of her mother; the violence, the blood, the beating, starvation……she has a deep scar, running across her skull. Do you know how the poor wash clothes; they slap their clothes onto boulders, often near a water source. Modar’s brother in law took one of those boulders and hit her across her skull with it. All the other brothers also used to beat her up. And her mother-in-law would not let her eat. M said ‘She cried all the time because she was hungry.’ In Afghanistan, women suffer most in the hands of their mother-in-laws. But a woman treated that way is likely to treat her future daughter in law the same way as well.

Even in the most peaceful families, what appears never is. My Afghan relatives, the men, seem to be such nice people but history tells too much. I don’t want to judge. I don’t want to try to understand why. I don’t want to explain. I don’t even want to come to any conclusions. But its difficult. I struggled in Dari to tell M this is not how its supposed to be. This is not how men should naturally react; that we as women can live without fear of violence at home.

L, my Afghan brother is a very very serious person, except with me. He is so cold with his sisters and mother and so I made him kiss each one of them on the cheek yesterday after sharing stories of how affectionate my brother is with me. (When we are out, everyone always think Amir and I are lovers because we are always holding each other). I think M in particular was very happy when he kissed her. She asked me jokingly to get him to do that everyday.

Today we tried something different! – I made him wash the dishes after we ate. The boys here don’t do anything in the house. So I said ‘Lets both wash the dishes together. You and me. Brother and sister. Both 21 yrs old.’ Then I said ‘Even Amir and I wash dishes together!’ He was not very happy with that so whilst washing dishes, I tried to make it fun by singing old Hindi songs, whilst M took videos and pictures of us in action.

To be fair L is an amazing son and brother, despite being so serious! He is the sole breadwinner of the family and pays for everything in the house. I think he offers his family a lot and they live sufficiently because of him.

xx

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2 thoughts on “Afghanistan tells very sad stories

  1. Natasha, thank you for sharing such a powerful story.
    I know it must not have been easy for you to translate these thoughts into words.

    This in no way justifies anything that goes on there, but, what people ‘learn’ to be the ‘normal’ way to live and to treat their fellow male/female friends/relatives/spouse/children etc is each largely determined and biased by what they see around them when they grow up.
    Let me give a very simplistic example – They may be ‘nice’ people but they if he has been brought up taught that being a guy means that he should not do household chores, including washing his own plates, with the lack of additional knowledge that its ok to do so [this is when awesome people like you enter their lives and make a difference!] they would not even consider doing so.
    I do believe that you are creating a change, a realization, not only in the people you interact with, but also the people whose lives they affect. The way L would treat his wife, son, daughter would all be totally different thank to the profound realizations that you are empowering him to make.
    I am really proud of all that you are doing in Afghanistan and beyond.

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