Photo by Migratory Birds Team

What an Afghan woman wants to say to an Afghan man

I am writing this for you, of whom I have always been afraid. I respected you but was never respected by you in return. I want to write everything that I have not been able to say. I will write on this lifeless paper, which I hope will have the endurance of an Afghan woman.

I want to start by complaining about our childhood, when you had the biggest portion of food because you were a man and needed more strength, when you had to go to school and I was just the little girl that stayed home. Yes, I stayed home because some men could not control their eyes or their behavior. They could see the successful women of our country and they admired them, but they never wished the same for their own women. You have even spoken about culture and freedom in front of a modern woman, but you do not consider this appropriate for your own sister!

Every time I become a target for your wild and violent mood, and when your hands become fists to hit my body, I wish you knew where my mind is travelling and what I am thinking. It is unfair that I must be modest in order for you not to make mistakes, and even more unfair that I have to talk and laugh quietly so that I am not heard, whereas you shout your vicious and vulgar words loudly. The more you are heard, the prouder you feel about your manhood.

I want to talk to you about the slaps on my face that I have received from you; those that feel painful even in my memory. Slaps you gave me because I wanted to continue my studies. I am a woman, a sensitive creature that needs love and care, not violence.

I am a woman, I must be a worthy daughter for my father, the mediator for paradise for my mother, I must help my brother find his future wife, I must be my sister’s confidante and my husband’s religious supporter. I am proud to be all this, but it is difficult to hear unfair comments from my own mother: “if only you were a son”.

I write for those who consider a woman to be the shame of society and a man the superior sex. I loathe your glances because they mean I am forbidden to appear anywhere. Why are you depriving me of this right instead of controlling the way you look at me? Aren’t all these things evidence of your selfishness? Don’t you think you need to take a second look at the way you behave? Don’t you think it’s time to break down all those barriers that have restricted my life?

An Afghan woman has a lot to say but has not learned to speak. They have always told her that women must remain silent. She must never cry, even while withstanding torture, and she must be patient. Only men are allowed to shout, hit and be impatient.

A woman in my country is not free; she does not decide how to dress or whom to marry. It is forbidden to write her name on the marriage invitation. Even sadder is the fact that even after she dies, no one refers to her by her own name. In the funeral announcement, she is referred to by the title of her husband or her son.

It is very difficult to be a woman, to be one more illiterate mother who cannot help her children and listen to their grievances. I would have managed to study if the fanatical ideas that you inherited from the previous generation had not deprived me of this right.

You told me I must always be afraid. You never told me not to be afraid, to try and overcome my fears, not to accept injustice, not to lower my head, you never ever said any of those things.

An Afghan woman is alone; she never looks for someone to help overcome her loneliness, because she does not trust anyone. She is tired but doesn’t look for support. An Afghan woman has not chosen her life but is doomed to live it. I am ashamed that my country is famous for its injustice and violence against its women. I’m famous because of Farkhunda who was burnt alive and Rukhsana who was stoned to death because of her smile. I hate this reputation. I don’t know what the future holds for my generation.

As a woman of my country, I ask you to change your perspective. I hope that someday you will change, and I say this because I can read your mind and your gaze. That is my strength and you cannot take it from me.

And you, women of my homeland, I hope that the strength of your mind will allow you to free yourselves from this torment and to hold your head up high.

Mahdiah Hossaini