Thursday, January 28, 2010

From Tony: Message of FoA Projects

Salam Friends,

Here's the access to the Starfish Initiative page that you requested. Click here. Send this link to your network and enjoy the apocryphal story of young Rostam the great hero of the Persian speaking people and by acclaim, of the peoples of Central Asia, as a caring child "Making a Difference" in his world.

The message is very simple. Essentially, our Friends of Afghanistan organization often in conjunction with my Orchard Park High School Educational Outreach students, can reach directly into Afghanistan and assist individuals. That is the essence of our Starfish Initiative making a difference for people one individual at a time. In the spirit of this program, we have five built schools, supported educational and vocational organizations put in a well and water supply system for a school, sent funds to purchase a sewing machine for a destitute woman enabling her to support her family, and now we are the visible partner in an effort to rescue a woman who is scheduled to be sold into a marriage by her brothers against her will. (Google: LA Times, I Am For Sale...Who Will Buy Me.)

Regarding our current capital projects, we are focusing on supporting the construction of a dormitory for girls in Kabul and finalizing what we think is Afghanistan's only Internet Cafe built exclusively for women. We have purchased and / or facilitated purchases of more than a dozen computers for this project and through our web master and technical guru Terry Dougherty FoA has been a primary consultant during every phase of development for this unique project. We have even arranged to send Terry to Kabul to oversee the final details of construction and assembly of this high tech project.

Last year we kicked off construction of the Internet Cafe in Kabul with almost $6,000.00 of seed money and we have already set aside another $5,000.00 of funds generated by students for our gender equity educational initiatives exclusively for the completion of this window out into the world for Afghan women and girls. This facility will serve as a computer work station and Distance Learning Center for SOLA, the School of Leadership Afghanistan, and will serve double duty as the hub for the AWWP, the Afghan Women's Writing Project.

In fact, concurrent with this communication, we are setting up a video conference capability that will enable Afghan women and girls through SOLA and the AWWP to meet the intrepid young humanitarian girls of the OPHS Educational Outreach organization who have been such reliable supporters and enthusiastic advocates for this gender equity educational project. All of our officers are Seniors and have been working in support of this project for four years. They are tentatively scheduled to video conference with the girls in Kabul late next week and are as excited as I have ever seen them regarding this opportunity to actually see the product of four years of loving labor in service to their sisters in Afghanistan.

We are also supporting SOLACE for the Children which brings War Wounded Afghan children to the US for medical treatment. Discuss forming a strategy for Buffalo becoming a satellite community for this vital program. We would have to locate doctors and hospitals willing to offer pro bono service and groups willing to support the costs for room, board and travel for the injured children. There are a lot to discuss but that's the synopsis of our major efforts to assist women and children who without our concern might remain hopeless, voiceless and marginalized within their own country.

Re: you other question, Friends of Afghanistan (FoA) is the official Alumni organization for the returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs)who served in Afghanistan. FoA is a national organization of RPCVs and I am the current President of that national organization.

Also, the Buffalo area RPCVs are planning a series of events during national Peace Corps Week in March featuring Afghanistan as our country of service. I'll update you about with the details so you can share it with your network of concerned citizens.

Peace, Tony


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fwd: Seeking your Input on Foreign Strategy in Afghanistan

Anyone know who this organization is?

The Open Think Tank on Global Issues - ATLANTIC COMMUNITY

Seeking your Input on Foreign Strategy in Afghanistan

Dear Terry Daughtery,

We are asking for your expertise on international policy in Afghanistan. - the first online think tank for international relations - is currently drafting a memo of policy recommendations for how best to proceed with the war in Afghanistan. Our members agree that two of the most important tasks are for NATO to clearly define its strategy and to develop stronger partnerships with the Afghan people.

Specifically, we are asking for your assessment on the following questions:

  • What are some concrete suggestions regarding how the international community can fight corruption?
  • Should Western aid be contingent on certain standards of development?
  • A recent poll suggests that support for international troops is up amongst Afghans. What projects and policies need to be undertaken to continue to improve ISAF's image amongst Afghans?
  • There is a general consensus amongst the members of regarding the negative consequences of warlords in parliament. What practical steps should be taken to improve this situation? How can their hold on power be reduced/weakened? How can the international community empower new politicians?

We would greatly appreciate your input on these timely policy questions and encourage you to share your comments at:

Please also feel free to cover these questions on your blog.

Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or would like to find out more about

With kind regards,

The Editorial Team

Atlantische Initiative e.V.
Wilhelmstrasse 67
10117 Berlin
Tel: +49 - 30 - 206 337 88
Fax: +49 - 30 - 206 337 90

-------------------- is a project of Atlantic Initiative e.V., a Berlin based non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to furthering transatlantic cooperation.

Terry Dougherty

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Take the Pen: Write a New Future

Afghan Women's Writing Project

Take the Pen: Write a New Future

Posted: 18 Jan 2010 09:07 AM PST

Sahar is 20 years old. She is one of my friends who never gave up in the face of difficulty. She has given me the sense that I have something inside, that I can do what I want and that I have rights I am afraid to claim. Here is her story:

The thing that makes me saddest is seeing the difference between girls and boys. From childhood, my father always told me: "You are a girl. You have to work and have no need to study." But I didn't listen. I studied and hid that from my father and my mother. I can't forget the day when I saw my father encourage my brother to study even though he didn't have talent in this area. I felt my father and mother both loved their sons more than their daughters. When I observed these things, it really made me sad and at the same time, it made me strong, determined that one day I will prove women can work in the home and study at the same time.

My brother was smaller than me and everyone loved him a lot even when he didn't do anything. I was the girl so I cooked for my family. In Taliban time, my father couldn't find a job because he was Hazara (a Persian-speaking ethnic group commonly oppressed by the Taliban.) So I did carpet-weaving in the home. I kept studying at home too, waiting for a time when the Taliban would leave our country so I might find a chance to go to school. I never knew what childhood was and what mother and father love is. Especially in the Taliban time, women lived like slaves and I was a slave in my home.

After some time, the Taliban left our country and I found an opportunity to go to school. I was very happy and told my father. He agreed but said, "When I want you to stop, then you must." I accepted because I wanted to start going to school. One day I was very happy because I got top student in my class, but when I showed my father, he wasn't happy. He tore up my paper and said he didn't believe it. I didn't cry that time. I decided to be still stronger. I studied more, working night and day. My father began to try to stop my studying many times, but I argued with him that I needed to study and improve. Then my father decided to marry me to a friend of his. My father needed the money of the dowry. My mother couldn't say anything or my father would beat her.

I said to my father, "If you will marry me because of money, I will earn that much money." My father slapped me and said: "Don't talk. Just be quiet. You don't have choice in your future."
But I got up and said, "Father, just give me one month. I will find the money."
Then I began weaving carpets without break day and night, and my mother took them to the bazaar to sell them. During those days, my father constantly argued with my mother, saying: "We should not keep our daughter in our home. We have to force her to marry."

In one month, I finished four carpets and gave the money I earned to my father. I said to him: "This is my money. Please never think that women are weak and you can just exchange them." I am the one who has dared to talk with my father when my other sisters were afraid of him.

Now my friend Sahar is very proud of herself and I am too. She comes from a family in which, though her father was educated, her mother was not. She comes from a world which was full of discrimination from every side—both because she is a woman and because she is Hazara. Despite all this, she found her way.

What I learned from Sahar is that we women are all strong; we can face any kind of difficulty. Bad days make us stronger. We should claim our rights ourselves and not wait for someone to give them to us. We should take the pen and put a full stop to all violent behavior against women and write a new future new of hope and bring smiles to women's faces and give them their value.
That is what we are working toward. This is not the end. We will make this group bigger and bigger until we stop women from having to beg on the street and stop men from beating their women.

By Shogofa

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Tradition of Baad

The Tradition of Baad

Posted: 14 Jan 2010 12:12 PM PST

"I was usually beaten with cables and sticks. I got pregnant twice but lost my babies because of severe living conditions. In three years, I didn't leave my in-law's house even once; I was always locked in a small house," says Mahnaz.

Mahnaz, 22, is my friend. I met her through my job. She was working in one of the ministries in Kabul. She did not want to hang out a lot or make close friends because she was scared of her husband finding her. She trusted me, so she shared her heart-touching stories and sometimes cried for hours. I tried to cheer her up and would invite her to lunch, but she never agreed to go.

When she was 17 years old, her dad and brothers gave her to "baad" in exchange for a large amount of family debt. Baad is a practice aimed at resolving disputes between families, clans, and tribes by giving women to the family of the perceived victim of a crime. Mahnaz was forced to marry a 35-year-old man who was very cruel and treated her like a slave. She was beaten by her husband and her in-laws, especially her sister-in-law.

After three years of hardship, Mahnaz escaped to Kabul and joined an organization that helped her financially. She lived with other women who were also victims of violence. She is fed up with life and very hopeless. She remains married because her husband is not willing to divorce her. She is in constant fear of her husband turning her into a slave again or killing her. Her family has disowned her, and people look down on her when they find out she has escaped from her married life.

Samia is another victim of baad. Samia's painful story starts with her father raping a 10-year-old daughter of another villager named Yasin in Baghlan, a northern province of Afghanistan. After her father was arrested, he was ordered to trade off his daughter, who would marry the raped girl's brother. Samia was seven years old when this happened. She was treated as a slave in Yasin's house for two years. During this period, Samia faced repeated cruelty. Her in-laws used hot metal pieces to beat her daily, pulled her hair, and even kept her naked outside in freezing weather. After two years, she was released from that family by the government.

The tradition of baad is practiced especially in rural districts and the tribal belt of Afghanistan. It is a punishment the family faces when a male member commits a serious crime. According to research by the Women and Children Legal Research Foundation, 38 percent of baad cases are a result of murder committed by the baad victim's family members. Usually, the elders of the tribe, tribal jirga, get together to peacefully settle the inter-family disputes by deciding that a girl from the perpetrator's family must marry somebody from the victim's family. In this way, the tribal jirga stop social conflicts by sacrificing the lives of Afghan women.

The consequences of giving girls to baad with no attention to their age and desires are domestic violence, prostitution, suicides, and deaths of many women. Yakin Ertürk, special reporter of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on Violence against Women, stated that she visited an eight-year-old girl who was given away by her family. "The girl—and others like her that I have talked to who were not lucky enough to end up in a protective area—are abused physically as well as sexually. Not only the designated husband, but until the designated husband grows up, other males in the family may abuse her," Yakin stated.

This inhumane practice has no legal or religious base. In fact, it's banned in the penal code, but still is practiced in certain areas. In most cases, no one reports to the government. People hear about such cases from the victim's relatives or friends. My mother informed me about this brutal practice. When I was a kid, she told me several stories of cases she or her friends knew about. However, I didn't bother thinking about it until I was friends with Mahnaz. Then I understood how hard it is to go through such tough situations in life and how necessary it is to abolish this practice.

I believe in order to help alleviate this problem, we should educate women about their rights, baad practice, and its consequences. Most of the village women are not educated. They don't know about their rights. They live in harsh conditions, always controlled by men. They are raised with such practices; therefore, they view baad as a good practice.

Furthermore, I believe the tribal jirgas should also be educated. Finally, although baad is criminalized by the Afghan government, the government is not efficient enough to control this practice. The government should send officials to the rural areas to end this practice. If the government becomes more effective and takes care of inter-family disputes, I don't think people would continue the inhumane practice of baad.

By Sana A.

Thursday, January 14, 2010



Posted: 13 Jan 2010 08:28 AM PST

(Eds Note: This story is based on true events and people the writer knows.)

"Afshan and I miss you a lot. When are you coming home, Ahmed?" asked my mother. She repeated this three times, but still, my father didn't reply.

Mom started crying. "Please, Ahmed, we love you. Come back, if not for me, then for our daughter. Afshan is not yet 16 years old. It has been almost six years since you left us."

Something painful rolled in my throat. I could hardly breathe. I put my hand on my mother and shook her. "Mom, wake up, it's just a dream. Father is not coming back. He is gone forever."

She opened her eyes. "Shut up, Afshan. You can't talk like this about your dad. He has gone to work. He'll be here within a few minutes and in the morning we will go to the park, okay?"

I put my arm on hers: "Mom, Dad isn't in this world anymore."

"What are you talking about? I hate when you talk rubbish."

"Mom, it's not rubbish," I shook her hard and started yelling: "Dad's dead…Dad's dead."

She was quiet for a while, and then closed her eyes. "Afshan, what time is it?"

"It's only 3 a.m. Go to sleep, Mom."

After a while, Mom fell asleep. I rested my hand on her belly. It felt like a big rock sat on top of my heart. I needed to leave the room to breathe, so I went outside and stared at the sky, the moon and the stars. I loved my friend, the moon. Whenever I felt alone, I would go outside and talk to my friend. The moon knew my whole life story. Sometimes I felt as if moon were talking to me.

That night, I closed my eyes and heard the moon asking me, "Did your mother dream the same thing tonight?"

"Yes," I said.

"Did any of your father's relatives contact you so far?" asked the moon.


I was quiet and the moon asked, "What are you thinking, my dear?"

"About the dark days and nights," I said.

I heard the moon telling me this is natural. Everyone has to leave this temporary place. This world is just for a while. It's not permanent. "Yes, everyone has to leave this world and I will be leaving this world too," I said. "But death should be of natural causes, not caused by another human being."

"I still remember," I told the moon, "when I was nine years old and playing in Shakiba's home. Her 18-year-old brother Waleed came to tell me to leave. Shakiba and I were shocked. Shakiba asked him why he would tell me to go home, and he said, 'Afshan's father is dead and some people brought half his body to their home.'"

I thought he was kidding. I kept playing with my doll. Then Shakiba's mother came in crying. Shakiba told her mother, "You know what Waleed is saying? He is so stupid; he told Afshan her father's half body is brought to her home. That's not funny, Waleed."

I knew in my heart something had happened, but I thought, how can my father's body be in half? I laughed. It simply couldn't be true.

Waleed's mother said: "I am sorry, Afshan darling. We wish it was false information but it's surely true." She took my hand and said: "Let's go" We all rushed towards my home. I could not walk as fast as everyone else. I was running and my mouth was getting drier and drier. My legs were not supporting me well.

Finally we reached our home. Lots of men and women stood outside. The closer I got, the louder the crying became.

When I entered my home, my mother ran towards me and hugged me tight. "Why did you take away my Ahmed? How can I live without him, Allah?" she screamed.

I pushed her away. "My father is not dead; He is gone for work and will back soon."

"I wish he was gone for work but he is gone forever," said my mother as she cried. It was only when I saw people carrying a coffin covered with a white cloth that I realized it was true. My father was gone from this world. I walked outside my home and heard Uncle Ali, my father's close friend, saying: "Ahmed was sitting at his shop and I was at my own when a fight started between the Taliban and the Marines. The Marines fired a rocket, which hit Ahmed's shop. It was hard to see because of smoke. The other shopkeepers and I rushed towards Ahmed's shop to help him get out of the store but we were too late. Ahmed was in two pieces. He was already dead."

I yelled, "But why my dad?"

Uncle Ali said, "This is life. Things like this happen day and night."

It's been six years since then, but I remember that day as if it were yesterday.

Forty days after my father's death, my mother took me to her mother's home and we stayed four days. When we came back to our home, my grandmother had packed our all luggage and the room was empty. My mother was shocked to see this and started crying. "Ahmed, your parents have also deserted us."

I went to my grandmother and said, "Who packed our luggage?" She said, "I did, and how dare you talk to me eye to eye?"

My grandmother slapped me so hard that I fell to the floor. My mother came running and helped me get up. She was crying loudly, begging my grandmother not to throw us out, but my grandmother said to my mother: "You are bad luck. That's why you could not have another child and now, because of you, my son is dead."

We left the house with our luggage. We didn't know where to go, so my mom took a taxi to her parent's home. When we arrived at their door, my mother's older brother came outside and stopped my mother from bringing in her luggage. My mother said: "We will be living here now because Ahmed's mother kicked us out of their home." My uncle said: "This is not your home anymore. It's brought shame for us that you stayed with us here before." I wondered where my mother and I would live.

"My daughter," my grandmother said, "you can move to our old home and stay there. We will help you financially, but you also need to work to support yourself, because you know your brothers don't have good jobs."

My mother put her luggage again in the taxi. The taxi stopped by an old, rundown building. The house didn't have a door and the walls were half broken. The taxi driver helped us carry the luggage into the house. Mom and I cried as we entered. The first room I walked into was the kitchen. It was dark. The walls were covered with smoke from a fire. Next to the kitchen was a room with all walls standing where I supposed we would live the rest of our lives.

My mother brought her luggage into this empty room and we spent the night with no food, no rugs, no pillow, no blanket, just the mud floor.

The next day, I was still asleep when my mother had almost cleaned the kitchen. She woke me up. I hugged her tight and said: "I am so hungry, Mom; I wish Dad were here to bring me biscuits, the way he used to."

Mom managed not to cry, because of me. Soon my grandmother came with some kitchen supplies and food. I rushed to get the food and started eating as if it were the first time I had eaten in my life. It was their leftover food from the previous night, beans with rice. "I love beans," I said.

It took us more than a year to settle into our new home. We had one room and a kitchen, but no bathroom. To the right of our house was a very broken house that we used as our bathroom.

My mother found a laundry job in one of the houses near her mother's home. I stayed alone at home while she went to do laundry. I didn't go to school because there was no school near our home. Besides, we couldn't afford it.

Every year brought different challenges. My mother lost her job three times and we again went through the hard time of having no food to eat. She finally found a job cleaning houses. Sometimes I went with her to help and sometimes I stayed home to cook food so it would be ready when Mom returned. My father's side of the family never came to ask how we were. I was sure they didn't even know if we were alive. I hated them. I never heard from or saw my friend Shakiba after that day either. Sometimes I wished I had never gone to her home. Maybe none of this would have happened.

As I sat outside, I suddenly heard the voice of mullah in the mosque giving azan, the dawn call to prayer. When I looked at the sky, the moon was gone! I returned to the room and fell asleep with my mother.

Days and nights passed. Sometimes my mother still thought my father would return, but no one came. No one came. No one did.

By Yagana

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Poems: To My Daughter / Pain Breath / Again in Front of You

Poems: To My Daughter / Pain Breath / Again in Front of You

Posted: 12 Jan 2010 05:45 AM PST

To My Daughter

Darling daughter!
The box of my heart is
Full of words for you
The key is with you
My child.

My first pain was from my mother's tears
I don't want your tears
I want you to light my world
Darling daughter.

A daughter is a mother's shadow
You are my shadow
My sweet orange.

The garden of my life stays spring
With you
Yes, with you I hug the world
Oh, my orange.

Pain Breath

The stars are angry and I
am alone again
The night reflects the darkness
I see in the mirror

I see the same sad face of my face
I see pain breath in the hut of my heart
and still I am alive

Stop, Life, stop your game
Enough is enough

Again in Front of You

Again in front of you
with a broken heart
with a wounded heart
with all my empty cells
I breathe with you
I live for you
You are the diamond gift of God

By Roya

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Peace Appears

Peace Appears

Posted: 11 Jan 2010 09:48 AM PST

There is a knocking on the door
Then let the door open…
Towards what?
Towards peace

But Peace said:
"I want to appear
When there is
No war, no murder,
No suicide attacker, no human trafficking,
No violations against women,
No famine, no corruption,
And there will be security,
Brotherhood, humanity,
Education, knowledge,
Freedom of speech."
In where?
In our country

Then peace will spread its wings over the land
But we must not let
War or fire burn its wings
And change its color to black
Or let illiteracy blind its eyes
Or let violence create a cancer
And change its joyful face to a sorrowful frown

Not let corruption and narcotics addict Peace
Not let poverty break the waist of Peace
Not let violations against women break its wing
Not let censorship limit freedom of speech
Not let our enemy destroy traces of ancient worlds
Not let that irritant music of war,
Suicide attackers, human traffickers, murderers
Explosions, fires, violations
Cover our country

To dwell in peace
We must become her best friend
Yes, but who will do that?
It will be knowledge and security
Which lights all peoples' minds
And delivers equality and shines
Over the world like the sun.

By Freshta

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Crime of Falling in Love

The Crime of Falling in Love

Posted: 05 Jan 2010 10:29 AM PST

My mother works for the United Nation Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, (UNAMA). One day, in March 2006, she came home from Mirwais Hospital in Kandahar Province very upset about a case. I asked her what worried her. "Is it something again about a female?"

"Yes, my dear," she said. In the hospital was a girl of 13, Shukriya, from Helmand Province, who had tried to commit suicide. "I don't know what will happen to her next, whether she will stay alive or not." Shukriya's mother was with her in the hospital. When my mother asked what had happened, Shukriya's mother said her daughter had been upset about her marriage a month earlier, but it had been necessary because "we were really poor and in debt… We had no choice."

From the look in Shukriya's eyes, my mother thought there was more to the story. "Tell me the truth," she insisted. Finally, Shukriya told the story below:

"Almost two years ago, I fell in love with my mother's cousin Zulmay Jaan, son of Aman-ullah. I didn't know how this all happened; I didn't even believe in love. But loved him then and I love him still.

"Zulmay often used to visit me at my home. We barely used to talk. We mainly stared at one another. Taking his hand in mine was something impossible then. Having sexual relations was out of the question. I actually never thought of him touching me, but yes, I did dream every night of marrying him, and having our kids.

"Whenever I was in the kitchen, he used make up an excuse to come and see me. One day, I was preparing tea in the kitchen when he came and said: 'Shukriya Jaan, can I have a glass of water, please?' I felt his voice right in my heart. I smiled at him and he at me. I gave him the glass of water and he stared at me for a whole minute. Then my mother entered the kitchen and asked him to leave because it was not appropriate for him to stay with me alone. My mother looked strangely at me. I knew she was angry because I stayed in the kitchen while Zulmay was there. I could feel the fear on my mother's face. I left the kitchen and took the teapot and cups into the other room.

"My mother followed and said: 'Shukriya come to my room, now.' I went with her and she said: 'You are no longer allowed to see Zulmay or come to the room when he is sitting there.'

"I was surprised. 'But why, Mother? Zulmay told me he loves me and wants to marry me. And that's good, because that is what I want, too.'

"'No, my daughter, your dad will never let this happen,' she said. I didn't answer and left her room.

"A week later, my dad accepted 400,000 Pakistani rupees (about $4,070 USD) to marry me to Mr. Aziz-ullah on the 19th of February 2006 without asking me. Aziz-ullah was more than 30 years old. He was already married and living with his first wife and three children. Two of his children were dead.

"After my engagement, I never saw Zulmay. I used to think about him, and dream of him at night. During the daytime, I used to wait for him to come and see me, but he never did again. He knew there was no other option except for me to marry this other man.

"After some months, I was married to Aziz-ullah. In my heart, I never accepted him as my husband. But I did used to sleep with him. I was very quiet. He always asked me why was I so quiet. I never told him the reason.

"One day, I tried to commit suicide. I decided to eat needles and nails. I swallowed almost 18 different-sized needles and almost a dozen nails. Unfortunately, I am still alive, and yes, I will try killing myself again and again, because I don't want to live any more. I am tired."

Finally, Shukriya's mother admitted this was the truth, and added that Shukriya's father's objection to Shukriya marrying Zulmay was not based on financial need. He didn't want his daughter to marry someone she loved because then everyone would gossip about it.

In Afghanistan, falling in love can be a crime, and marrying for love is often forbidden.

By Yagana

Don't Leave Me Alone

Posted: 05 Jan 2010 10:27 AM PST

I was alone at night
With my sorrows
Holding mother's hand.
It was silent all night,
Except for the sound of my breath.
But I could feel that my hand
Was with someone
"Don't leave me alone!"

Full of tears
I knocked on all doors
I heard no answer.
Finally, my heart cried and said,
"Why are you restless?"
I was afraid losing someone
I looked around and saw only myself
I wanted to do something but couldn't.
Now, no one can help you…
I knelt to God… "Don't leave me alone."

In that sad moment
No one held out a hand.
I waited all the night,
But morning didn't come
Suddenly, in a real dark world
I heard crying
And saw people carrying
A white cloth
And I called out to my mother
"Don't leave me alone."

She took her hand from mine
And said, "This way of life, we all
Must one day leave…every season
Must end.
Nothing lives forever."

By Shogofa

Sunday, January 03, 2010

I Am For Sale, Who Will Buy Me?

This is the final edited form of this story
it is the source for Masha Hamilton's Opinion piece published today in the LA Times,0,1220088.story


I Am For Sale, Who Will Buy Me?

Posted: 02 Jan 2010 05:12 PM PST

(Eds Note: This is only the second anonymous piece we have run on the blog. We encourage our participants to claim their own stories, but in this case, the writer felt she could only safely share this if she did so anonymously.)

I used to think big. When I was six, I made my mom let me go to school, and I loved it. My father told me: "If you stay at the top of your class until the end of your studies, I will do two things for you. First, I will let you go abroad to continue your education. Secondly, I will buy you a car and let you drive." With the encouragement of my father, I was a superstar in my classes. He was my first English teacher and he always called me "my scholar daughter."

During the Taliban's black government, my brothers could go to school, but I couldn't. My father bought me school supplies, though, and told me: "Be patient. One day you will finish your studies." He was right. I waited five years, but after that, I could go to school.

When I was in ninth grade, I earned my first money from teaching English. It was only 200 Afs, but I was excited. I gave my salary to my father. He kissed me and laughed and told me, "Dear, keep your salary for yourself. I don't need it." I said, "Dad, it is for you." He smiled and told me, "It is just the cost of ink for your shoes," and he gave me another 1000 Afs. He was my supporter in all aspects.
When I was sixteen years old, one of my neighbors came to our house and proposed that his son marry me. My father was angry and told him: "Do you know my daughter is sixteen? It is time for her to study. If the king comes and knocks at the door of my house and proposes that my daughter marry his son, I won't accept it. Please, leave my house and never come back again."

I was in my last days of school when my father died. When I lost him, I lost my shadow, but he left me with his words and advice and books. After his death, our economic situation was bad. Mom's salary was the equivalent of $25, which was not enough. I began teaching classes in a private school. Half my salary was for my studies and half went for house expenses. During these years, I was the poorest student in my class. I spent days without breakfast or lunch, but I felt happy for my education. During the last four years, I received a number of marriage proposals but I rejected them all. Most wanted me to stop my studies and never work outside the home.

After my father died, the responsibility for me fell to my brothers, who grew up under the Taliban government and were influenced by it. Now I live with three Talibs and I must obey what they say. I am not like a girl in the house, but a slave. When I was at third year at the university, the owner of our house demanded higher rent. My family decided they would leave Kabul and go to a province where housing was cheaper. But I didn't know how I would continue my studies in that case, so I gave up my transportation money to help pay for our rent, and I go to the university on foot.

Still, at the beginning of this year, my brothers said: "It is time for you to marry." They arranged a marriage to my first cousin, my mom's brother's son, who lives in a province where most of the people are Talib. My cousin is about 40 years old and uneducated. His family has a business and a big house. Their women are required to wear burqas and are responsible for cooking, cleaning and caring for the animals. Most have eight or nine children. They can't go outside the house—even when they are sick, they aren't allowed to go to the doctor. My uncle's money gives him power despite the fact that he is uneducated.

My family thinks I am tired of working so hard, and that my uncle's money will convince me to accept this golden bracelet. My uncle told my family he would pay them $20,000, and this money might possibly keep my family alive. At the same time, I am thinking about graduating, seeking my masters' degree and a PhD, getting a better job, making an independent life, standing on my own feet. I told my mom: "Please give me a chance. I don't like this man. I can't marry him. If you want to sell me, then I am ready to buy myself. I have a plan for my life. Please give me a chance, please, please." She didn't reply, but cried silently with me. I told her: "If my father were here, he would bring a revolution in this house."

None of my close friends know what is happening with me. Once one of my classmates came to my house and she was carrying her notebook. I study in secret. When my family saw her notebook, they behaved badly toward her and told her not to come again.

These days I am thinking of possible solutions: how to get another job, earn at least $1,000 a month in salary. Running away is not an option because girls who run away here are raped by men and spend years in jail, and I am not such a girl. I can't leave my mom because my brothers believe anything "wrong" I do is the fault of my mother, and they will kill her. My brothers think a girl who has a bank account or a mobile phone is a prostitute. I hide my phone and keep it on silent mode when I'm home.
I have two months to find a solution. If I fail, I have to accept this marriage, and I will accept it because of my mom, but I can't live in such a situation. How can I live with such a man, or accept such failure? I think if this happens, I won't stay in this world; I will leave the world for those who can live in it, who can find a solution.

What I write here are the wounded and torn pieces of my heart and the secrets an Afghan girl suffers.
I am like a piece of cloth. I cost little. Who will buy me?

By Anonymous