Thirteen years after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, educated women increasingly fear a return to the past era of fundamentalism. In this piece written for the Afghan Women’s Writing Project, a young mother, former teacher, and long-time AWWP contributor explains that she thought she had finally succeeded in creating a safe life for her small family, only to find she had to flee her country a few weeks ago to save her life. Her devastating story is unfortunately not unique. UNHCR has documented an increase in numbers of displaced Afghans fleeing the country due to diminished security and heightened armed conflicts. Recent gender-related setbacks include a series of attacks on high-profile women and the failure to implement laws protecting women. This author’s name has been withheld for her protection.
I was born and raised in Iran in a refugee camp during the war between the Soviets and Afghanistan. My parents’ relatives had relocated to Iran four years earlier and my parents decided to join them. I was their second child.
My mother knew how to read and write, but my father hated this. He was uneducated and did not want her to learn more than he. She weaved carpets to earn money, and my father sold the carpets in the market. But my father was a drug addict. He spent much of the money from my mother’s carpets to pay for his addiction. A brutal man, he would often bless my mother, and then he would hit her.
Despite the objections of my uncles and father, I finished high school in Iran. But when the Taliban took over Afghanistan, my father insisted we return to Afghanistan. My uncles, my father’s brothers, requested that we return because my sisters and I were grown and old enough to marry their sons.
My uncles are primitive people. Once when we were little, I remember they came to our house and threatened to kill my parents for letting us go to school. Our neighbors heard the screaming and came to help.
My mother did not want to go back, but my father would have had her killed if she did not go with him. So we returned to Afghanistan.
My First Marriage
Life was dreadful and terribly bad under the Taliban. But after the U.S. invasion, Afghanistan was freed from the Taliban rule and everything changed positively. I got a job as a high school teacher in Farah province and taught mathematics and Farsi grammar. But very soon afterwards my father made the decision to marry me to a man much older than me. He was a mujahideen, one of the people who fought the Soviet troops. He also believed the fundamental ideas of the Taliban.
We got married and I became pregnant and then I came to know that he had another wife. Nearly each day, I was subject to different types of violence from my husband. Once I was beaten so badly that I had bruises all over my body and my face. I miscarried my baby.
My first husband opposed the new government in Afghanistan and he wanted to leave Farah province to go to the neighboring province of Nimruz, where he began work within the Taliban. I didn’t go with him. I asked for a divorce and after a mediation of the elders of both families he was forced to divorce me. I was newly pregnant for the second time. My son was born in 2006.
My first husband was furious about the divorce because he had lost face. He tried to take revenge and told everybody he would kill me as soon as possible. He persuaded another man to ask my father for my hand. My father and the village elders agreed on my behalf and so, only about one year after the divorce, I became married for the second time.
This man was a brutal animal and crooked. He sold my house and took all of the money and he subjected me to huge violence. He told me that he married me only to punish me and because my first husband had asked him to do so. He told me that after torturing me he would kill me within the next year. I escaped Farah province and moved with my young son to another province.
I settled in Herat, where I started a new life from scratch. I worked very hard at two and sometimes three jobs so that within a few years I bought myself a house and was living a happy life with my son, my mother, and my two younger brothers.
Then everything changed quickly. My first husband, now a member of the Taliban, began to threaten me. He got the local police to imprison my brother, and I had to sell my house to free him. I had to leave for my safety. In September 2014, I went to Kabul, the safest place in Afghanistan. I was very lucky to meet Zabihullah, a nice and well educated man. We soon fell in love, and I told him my whole life story. We married traditionally but in secret, within a small circle of his friends.
We were living a happy life. But then I began to receive more threats from my first husband, who would call me and vow to find and kill me. I changed my number, but at night I had to sleep in front of the door so if someone came, I would know it. Someone left a letter at our apartment building telling us that we would soon face the destiny of a female parliamentarian who had lived in our building and was killed in her apartment. My husband left the apartment to stay in safety with his friends and other family members. My son went with my mom to live in a secret place. My brothers escaped the country as the Taliban—along with my first husband—is gaining more power these days.
I changed provinces twice to escape this monster. Where else can I go?
This is why I must leave Afghanistan.
Photo by ResoluteSupportMedia