Being a Woman: My Only Sin

(Eds Note: This essay was written by one of our writers, but contains no identifying information due to security considerations.)

I love my job. I know it can help bring changes in women’s living conditions in my province. But there are obstacles.

Recently I received a death threat from Taliban. I was on my way to work when a neighbor called out to me and said, “You must return home because we found a letter from the Taliban threatening you, and you must quit your job right now.”

“I want to see that letter,” I told him.

He said, “That is fine,” and gave me the letter, which said the Taliban in my province were planning to kidnap me, my sister and my father and then kill us.

As my family was at risk, they decided to move to another city. They were not happy about leaving me alone and asked me to come with them, but I thought about my responsibilities for the women in my province, so I remained behind for my job. I am not living with my family any longer. I only go out covered in a burqa. I am still working.

My early life began like this: when I was seven years old, my mother got sick, so I began to take care of our home, washing clothes and dishes, cooking. One night during the Taliban regime, our family left Afghanistan at midnight and headed to Iran. It was cold and dark. We were traveling in a car and the roads were unpaved and dusty. Finally we reached the Iranian border. We found a place to stay for the night, and in the morning we crossed a river and then took another car to Zabol in Iran.

In Iran, we started another life with many difficulties. My father was working and my mother and I began to work also. We deshelled nuts for a shopkeeper who paid us about 1000 toman so we had enough to buy bread. I have many bad memories from that time. I remember when I was eight years old; I went to bakery to buy bread. I was the first in line, but the baker did not give me bread because I was an Afghan. I waited until 10 p.m. that night. It got darker and darker and I was afraid, as our house was very far. Finally I got the bread and was running home and, on the way, crying. When I got home, my mother was waiting at the gate, also very worried.

At that time I wanted to study, so I tried to enroll in official Iranian schools, but as I was an Afghan, I was not allowed to attend the schools. I did find a literacy class and I started my primary education there until sixth grade. That meant when we returned to Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, I could go directly to school to learn subjects, not simply to learn to read.

The first day of school in Afghanistan, I was so glad. I felt I was floating in the sky. It was a sunny day. I was with many Afghan girls standing in the yard of school and waiting for our teachers. It was 2001 and I was in the sixth grade. We did not have chairs, desks, books, or a blackboard and our floor was dirt, since everything was lost during the Taliban regime. I was an intelligent student and the teachers loved me. I never missed a day, even though my mother was sick. I got up early in the morning to clean the house, make breakfast and cook lunch.

In 2004, my life faced another tragedy. My family forced me to marry an uneducated, older man. I was sixteen years old. The man I was engaged to was my father’s relative. From the beginning, every day, I was beaten by him. He wanted to prevent me from going to school; he never allowed me to see my friends and relatives. I tolerated everything because I was an Afghan and it was shame for my family if I complained about my husband.

After three months, my husband sent me to my father’s home and left me. When I was 17 years old, he came and divorced me. I was pregnant. I was happy that this cruel man would leave me alone, but I was worried about my child. After he divorced me, people started to say bad things about me because they did not accept a divorced woman. My child was born in a hospital but since then, I have never seen him. It was a boy and my husband’s family came to take him forever.

There was no way forward for me except to continue my education. I finished my pre-university classes and wanted to go to a university. But my mother was again sick and required an operation that cost the equivalent of eight-thousand dollars. So I worked for three years to help raise this money. My mother had the operation and is now fine. I feel so happy to see her finally healthy after 17 years.

As for my own future, I don’t know what it will be. I know I want a university degree someday, and I know I will keep trying.

By Anonymous

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18 responses to “Being a Woman: My Only Sin

  1. This – the events you shared with us here – is why I feel honoured to work with the women writers of Afghanistan. Without you, without your courage and commitment, the West would have no way of knowing or understanding what life is like there. Thank you, for your courage and your words.

  2. What incredible courage. You are truly a remarkable woman.

  3. Your words are so inspiring. Thank you for finding the courage to share them.

  4. You have done us all such a service and a gift by having the courage to share your story, on behalf of all women. What obstacles you face every day – beyond imagining for many of us. It’s a miracle that you persevere.

    Here in the U.S. we are so privileged. We all have our issues and problems of some kind, of course, but they do not compare. I received a great public school education as a girl and went to fine universities. Everyone always encouraged me to learn.

    It is part of my life’s mission to help empower and inspire other women globally, especially through education. I am keeping you in my thoughts and prayers that all your dreams may come true and that you will earn that university degree that you dream of. I know you can do it.

    You are an eloquent writer and you are incredibly brave. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you do.

  5. You are a deep inspiration to women all over the world. I will be praying for you and your family, as will so many others who read your words. I hope you will keep writing, and keep hope and love in your heart. Thinking of you from across the ocean, Stacy

  6. I don’t know how many of us would be willing to keep doing our jobs in the face of death threats. I am awed by your courage. You are a true inspiration to us all.

  7. What an amazing and heart-wrenching story. Rock on, sister! Your words will make a difference.

  8. It’s an honor working with writers like you. We have little to risk in writing our truth, but you risk much and are an inspiration to women all over the world. Thank you.

  9. Earlier this year, I saw the documentary film, Frontrunner, about Dr. Massouda Jalal’s run for President of Afghanistan. Madame Jalal spoke to your situation, to the importance of making education possible. Ultimately, education is the source of the power that we need to live in peace and enjoy individual rights.

    Because you do the work you do and take the risks you do, it is possible for others to do so too. So many women, so many people acting together will make a better life possible for future generations. It will take many people like you and Dr. Jalal to make the dream of education and safety for all come true. You inspire us all.

    Khuda hafiz.

  10. You are so very strong and unselfish. I applaud your determination and am sure you will continue to grow and to learn and help to correct the injustices faced by so many Afghan women. Thank you for sharing your story and your courage.

  11. After reading your words, the view out my window will never be the same. Thank you for changing the way I look at everything that exists underneath the sky.

  12. I will have my children read your story. They take so much for granted. I am touched by your will of heart – your courage. God has a purpose for you. I will be praying. He know who you are, He knows you by name – believe it.

  13. Allen Churchill

    Very moving and very sad. However, a great example of courage.

  14. Thanks for having the courage to share your story. What an inspiration you are. I will keep you in my thoughts.

  15. I love the tittle, it is nice as Afghan girl I agree with you that being a woman is my only sin. my heart start beating reading the tittle, keep writing dear,

  16. Writing the truth so bravely in the face of so much adversity is to truly give freedom and emancipation to yourself. You are an inspiration to women everywhere.

    And when things get really hard, remember that Allah closes doors no man can open and Allah opens doors no man can close.

    Thank you for your story.

  17. Your story gives me courage to continue to support our troops fighting to defeat the Taliban and what ever comes from Al Queda. Our troops are a promise that the day will come when you will not be terrorized to want an education. It also says how petty many of us are who live with Freedom and seem to be ready to sacrifice that beacon of freedom to politically motivated changes.

  18. I am so terribly sorry for all those who are oppressed as horribly as this, and they are in my prayers. Hopefully, some day in the future, things such as this will be nothing but mere memories, and peace will be the only thing left.

    Never let your hope die. Always remember that there are some around you who you can rely on in times of need, and always remember that no matter what, there will be someone out there who loves you.

    Being a woman is a sin to some, but not to all. Not to me. To those who oppress women, it is, but they are few when compared to all those who care nothing about trivial matters such as gender, skin color, or anything that marks you as different. Oppression cannot succeed when faced with all those who wish to resist it. Find a refuge, others who think like you, and use your words. The pen, or in this case the keyboard, is far mightier than the sword. Never, ever forget that.

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