Category Archives: Marzia

A Letter To My Parents

When I was twelve years old, I had my first marriage proposal. The person was my aunt’s sixteen-year-old grandson. My parents were furious at the boy’s family because I was a child who didn’t know the meaning of marriage. In addition, I had three older sisters who were single and I was supposed to be the last in line.

When I was fourteen, another person asked my parents’ permission to propose to me. He was a rich twenty-four-year-old man. At that time, two of my sisters were married, although an older sister was still single.

At first, I was not concerned about this proposal because I thought my parents would deny this person the same way that they had denied the other one. However, I was wrong. This time, my parents not only liked the guy—they were also pleased by his wealth. As a result, I became worried my parents would accept the offer and I started to plan how to tell them I did not want to marry the person. In my family, it is disrespectful for a child to stand against the parents’ decisions. I was too shy to talk to my parents face-to-face. Instead, I decided to write the following letter:

My dear parents, please accept that I am not prepared to get married. I am fourteen years old and I need to find my life’s way. In order to do this, I must become educated. I need to have new experiences to become independent and to help my country’s women.

First, I know that you both want the best for me. You helped me to walk, talk and eat, and while I was sick you stayed awake with me all the night. I just want you to know that I don’t need a partner to take care of me. I can be independent and take care of myself.

Second, this is the best time for me to get a better education and learn new skills. You know that in Afghanistan we don’t have enough educated people. I feel this as my responsibility to get an education and help my people. For almost six years during the Taliban regime, the schools were closed for the girls. Now that I have the opportunity to get my education, I want to use this opportunity. I want to travel to the other countries and study in a better system. I am like a bird in a cage, I want to fly to other countries and see new people with new cultures.

Third, today the women in Afghanistan are the poorest women in the world. They don’t have any rights, but in other countries, women have the same rights as men. The women in Afghanistan don’t have the right to choose, to work outside of their homes or to get an education. Most women in Afghanistan are punished and hit by their husbands or brothers if they don’t obey them. Dear parents, you know that women in Afghanistan need help to understand their rights. So I want to become a lawyer to know and understand their rights, and to fight this injustice. I don’t want to be one of these women; I want to help them.

My dear parents, you are angry with me because you think if I become a lawyer, I would be killed. But I cannot stop trying because of this. It is very important for me to finish my education successfully and help my country’s poor women.

At the end, I promise you that I will be an independent person and I will try my best to become an honest lawyer to fight for women’s rights. I will make you happy and proud if you let me do this.

Your daughter always,
Marzia

After writing the letter, I placed it on my parents’ bed. That night I slept poorly; I was worried about my parents’ reactions and I was thinking about what other ways I might be able to change their minds if they rejected my letter. My sisters said nothing to me, but I felt they were not happy with me for writing the letter. Even though I was eager to know my parents’ reaction, I decided to go to school early and wait until after school when my father would be at work and I would see only my mother, since I am more open with my mom. When I returned from school, my mother’s smile showed she was proud of me. She told me she and my father would try their best to help me accomplish my goals.

As a result, after that I entered a program to study in the United States for one year and then I worked for women’s rights for two years. Now I am in college and getting closer to achieving my goals of receiving an education to help women in Afghanistan, and I’m becoming more independent every day. Until today, my father still talks about me writing that letter. I think he is proud and happy for what I did.

By Marzia

A Calculated Risk

Life is like a river. Sometimes it is rough, and other times, calm. We are all on a journey and do not know where the river will lead us. Since life offers no guarantees and we will not know whether our decision is wrong until we have made it, I believe we should take the risk and not be paralyzed by fear. Taking action is better than going nowhere. Yes, one wrong turn might get us lost. However, it also could also lead us to opportunities.

I took a big risk in 2006 when I was seventeen. I won a scholarship to study in the United States. When I was selected, my parents were in Saudi Arabia for the Hajj. When they returned, I told them I had been selected for the program. From the beginning, my mom disagreed with me about going overseas, because she was not sure I was old enough to go alone. My dad said: “If you go and something bad happens to you, I am not responsible for it.” My siblings also did not support me. I felt alone. I had to convince my family that going to America would be good for my future.

I knew I was taking a big risk, because I did not know with whom I would live and what would happen to me. But it was also risky for my family. The Taliban are opposed to education for women. If the Taliban discovered that I was going to America, they would harm my family. There was also the possibility that I would not be accepted in Afghan society when I returned from America. I was afraid people would reject me when I got home.

I talked to some girls and boys who were in this program. They told me about their experiences and problems that they had faced. I came home and wrote all the advantages and disadvantages of my decision. For example, during that time I was to be in America, I would miss the college entrance exam in Afghanistan that is necessary to pass in order to go to college. However, by going to the United States, I might get another chance to complete my higher education abroad. I also did not want to miss the opportunity of traveling abroad and meeting new people, as I might not have this chance again.

Probably the biggest reason I wanted to take the risk was to show my family and my people that a woman can do more than take care of children. And that she can travel alone. This in turn was going to win me my independence and respect from others.

After much persuasion, my family decided to support me. However, I would be responsible for what might happen to me. I was happy to accept the responsibility for myself. For the first time in my life I went miles away from home. I lived with people from different cultures who I did not even know. I studied in a co-educational school, which I had never done before. I also experienced many other new things.

Now I am very glad that I took the risk that enabled me to understand that nothing is impossible in this huge world, and that when we can dream it, we can achieve it. We just need to be brave and make the choices. If I compare the Marzia I was before accepting the responsibility and taking the risk, I see that she is not the same person. I am a person with better ideas and more confidence.

By Marzia

My Father’s Story

By knowing our parents, we can better know ourselves. For this reason, I went to my father and asked him to tell me about his life and parents. I learned many things from what my father said about his life and I hope you also learn something. I write this in my father’s own words:

During my childhood, there were no vaccines for diseases such as small-pox, chicken-pox and measles. These diseases killed lots of children. For example from eight or ten children in a family, only three or four remained. In order to be safe, my family chose my name, which means victory, from the holy Quran, but my family and friends called me Nassro. Now everyone calls me Hajj Baba because I went to Makah, and I am old.

I was born in a green, beautiful village in 1944. My father was the village’s landlord, so we were almost rich and had lots of lands and gardens, most of which came from my grandparents.

My father had a very sad death, because in that time we did not have doctors. There were some people who did not study at all yet treated the patients. When one of these “doctors” was injecting medicine into my father, he died, even though he was not very sick.

I do not know if I did something very special during my life time. But as a good teacher, I educated lots of students who have become doctors, engineers, teachers, lawyers and so on.

The world is completely different from when I was a child. During my time, we did not have electricity. Instead, we used very simple lamps that we called “mouse lights.” These were cups full of mando oil and they had a hole with a cotton wick, which was unhealthy because it was very smoky. It is very interesting to know how we got mando and sesame oil. It was not easy; we used strong camels or oxen to make the oil, and we chose a very dark place with little air, a big smooth round stone at the middle and a strong rope. When the animals went around the stone, the force made the oil. We used the leftovers to feed our animals during the winter.

We did not have cars; instead we used animals for transportation. We made fires to cook food because we did not have gas. Most of the time, we exchanged things for goods. If we wanted to buy one kilo of sugar instead of paying money, we paid two kilos of wheat.

As a child, my favorite games were marbles and flying kites. Sometimes we went swimming. My school was good. Most of my teachers were women and my English teacher was from England. I was a good student, especially in mathematics. I remember a geometry exam which was very difficult; only one student passed and that was me! During the examinations, I went to our garden and studied there. Once villagers told my father not to let me to study a lot, otherwise I would become crazy. After graduating from high school, I wanted to leave the country and go to college, but unfortunately my father’s death damaged my dreams and goals. My eldest brother left the family and went to the city to get married. His first wife was chosen by my mother and she was older than him. He did not love his wife and wanted to remarry.

My mother told me: “If you leave home, who will take care of your brother, sister and sister-in-law?” In that moment it was very difficult for me to decide. College was ready for me and my dream was to become a doctor. But I sacrificed my dreams for my family.

I started to teach in the country and opened a shop during the afternoon. After a while my mother decided I should get married. She told me she would find the most beautiful girl and she was right. The first time that I met your mother, she was only fourteen years old; very beautiful, but skinny. We were engaged for four months. Even though she was living at the city, I tried to see her two or three times per week. I will never forget when I met your mom for the first time. When I went to the room, I saw that she had one leg. I became surprised that she had only one leg. Suddenly I remembered that people say “when you meet your wife or husband for the first time and tread on her or his foot, you will be the head and master of the family.” Then I went and pushed her and tread on her foot.

Weddings in my time were very interesting. Three days before the wedding, we invited all our relatives and neighbors; we had several parties such as henna bandan. One day before our wedding, the bridegroom’s family went to the bride’s home with country music and a horse which was covered with a green shawl and a woman as bridesmaid. The bridegroom was on another horse. They moved through the country’s alleys with dancers and country musicians in front of them. After that, they went to the bridegroom’s house, where they prepared a lunch of meat soup, salad and homemade bread. All the people sat in straight lines and every three persons ate from one big bowl. They slid the bread into the bowl and started to eat with their hands. At the end they divided the meat between them. Women and men did not celebrate together.

When I look back, I see that many things happened to my life and I become surprised that I am alive. After the coup d’état in 1979, people started to hate the government. Some uneducated people started to kill teachers. One day I was at school when two persons came and took me with them. I knew they would kill me. I had two children and your mother was pregnant at that time. Those people closed my eyes and hands, and then they took me to a garden and put me in a hole. I was feeling that I would be killed.

There were some people in that garden and one of them knew me. That person left the others and went to the village and told the villagers I was in danger. The village’s old and young people came and told the killers: “We want our teacher.” They saved my life. After they uncovered my eyes, for a while I could not see anything. We had to leave our village when the war started in 1979. In the city, we lived with my father- in-law until I could buy a piece of land and build a house which we are still living in.

Another time during the Taliban regime, I was working as a clerk because the Taliban wanted the teachers to teach only religious subjects. They did not let me teach mathematics, so I lost my job. Another time, I came home from work, and my son, who is a mechanic, told me that maybe that night the Taliban would come and arrest him. When I asked him the reason, he said that when he was fixing his friend’s car, they were listening to music and suddenly one Talib came. “I cut the line of the tape. The Talib tried to turn on the tape, and when he could not, he got angry and said something bad to us and wanted to take us to the jail. We got mad and hit him.”

He was right; it was night when the Taliban came. I told my son he should run away. When the Taliban came, I said that he was at his aunt’s home. They did not trust me and checked the home. When they could not find Ali, they told me: “We will take you with us until your son comes.” There was another man in the jail who had tried to stop their fight, but the Taliban arrested him and by morning they were betting that he would tell where my son’s friend was. The Taliban did not hit me because they respected old people.

That was a very bad night for me, I could not sleep till morning because the Taliban are very wild people. If they killed my son, no one would question them. They killed people who did not obey them. After a day, Ali came, and when I saw him, I became more worried. The Taliban asked my son about his friend’s address, but he refused to say, because he was his friend. Finally the Taliban found my son’s friend. After a week, because of my effort, Taliban forgave my son and his friend had to pay lots of money to save his life. It was the same year when the Taliban started to put headmasters in jail for a long time without any reason. My nephew was a leader. No one wanted to help him, but I brought him home and hid him. If the Taliban knew that, they would have killed both of us.

The most important thing that ever happened in my life was when the president of Afghanistan, Dr. Najibullah, selected the best six teachers in Herat city and they chose me. I got the scholarship to go to Rashia, but your mother did not let me go.

Now I am so happy. I am so proud of my children. I will not be worried when I die, because I am sure that all my children can take care of themselves.

By Marzia

Childhood Memory: Zainab’s Death

When I was ten years old, I was a student in a tailoring shop. In my teacher’s neighborhood there lived a family with one son and one daughter. Their son was 7 and their daughter was 14.

In our culture, girls are not allowed to have boyfriends or relations before they get married. But this family’s daughter had a boyfriend without telling anyone about it. The girl’s name was Zainab; she made a friendship with the boy next door who was 16. One summer afternoon these two went to the trail and slept together. After that the girl got pregnant and everyone knew about that. Her parents became very sad and ashamed for their daughter’s mistake. Unfortunately, most of the time in our culture, when something like this happens, all the suffering and sorrows are for the girl, not for the boy.

Zainab’s mother went to the boy’s family and asked her mother to let his son marry her daughter. The boy’s mother did not accept and said that her son was not going to marry her ugly and bad daughter. She told Zainab’s mother: “If you are feeling sorry for your daughter, why didn’t you teach her not to hang out or sleep with the boys?” The girl’s mother became very sad and angry. At that time Zainab was five months pregnant. The mother came home, took a big stone and put it on her daughter’s belly and killed her.

After killing their daughter, the family moved from that area. Sometimes people saw the boy at the girl’s grave crying. He was a handsome boy with blue eyes, and the girl was cute with brown
skin.

I heard Zainab’s mother became very sorry for killing her daughter, but it was too late. She had not controlled her anger. Now the boy has a wife and children, but the poor girl, she lost her dreams and life.

It was one of my childhood’s bad memories. It makes me very sad. Every day many such cases happen in Afghanistan. People remember these for a while, but very soon they forget everything.

By Marzia

Untitled

I will never forget the day that my sister was engaged and my brother took us to the Herat Road River for a picnic. It was a very nice spring day and the river was roaring. We were looking at the river and enjoying ourselves when suddenly three Taliban appeared. They beat my father, brother, and brother-in-law with whips because the Taliban didn’t let men go on picnics with women or listen to music. Since my brother wasn’t wearing a jacket, his back became bloody. In that moment I was shaking and was sorry I could do nothing against them. That day I saw the real face of the Taliban.
When I was seven years old, the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. They are a very wild and cruel people. For almost six years (1997-2001), they ruled Afghanistan by oppression. As soon as they came into power, they closed all the places that women could go, such as colleges, schools, and public baths. They believed a woman’s job is only to stay home and take care of her children, but this is not true because our prophet Mohammed stated, “It is essential for Muslims, both male and female to receive an education, even if they have to travel to China.” The holy Qur’an mentioned many times that men and women have equal rights and women must behave well and become educated.

At first I was too young to know the facts; after I got older I understood how unlucky all Afghan women are. For me it was very hard to spend my precious childhood at home, so my sisters and I started to study at home with my father. However, the Taliban let girls under the age of ten go to the mosque and learn how to read the holy Qur’an. For three years I learned how to read in Arabic and at home my father taught me how to write and read in Dari. When I was eleven, because my mother was so worried about my future, she sent me to learn tailoring. There I had to work very hard for my teacher. Because I met lots of people, I had a social life as well.

During the Taliban regime I didn’t have any fun at all. The Taliban closed the TV stations because they believed these were against Islam. They hanged the people who didn’t accept their rules. They put my brother in jail for one week because he was listening to music while he was fixing his friend’s car. During that week, we were very worried about him. Another time when I went to my sister’s friend’s wedding the Taliban came and arrested the groom and his father because of playing music during their party. I was so scared and came home without eating lunch. Once they hit my mom on her neck for going to the bazaar without a male. To this day she has a problem with her neck aching. Also I will never forget the day that I went to the bazaar with my sister and saw the Taliban had hanged my mother’s two young cousins because somebody told the Taliban that one of them was supporting people who were against their regime. I have lots of bad memories from those dark years.

— Marzia