LETTER FROM AFGHANISTAN BY BATUL MORADI

BATUL MORADI asked us to read this letter out at the FiLiA conference.
Thanks to Kate Smurthwaite for taking this on and for reading with such poise and dignity.


I was 7 the first time I realized a difference between the boys from the neighborhood and relatives and myself. I had to wear a big scarf and a long uniform and watch the boys dressed in their regular comfortable clothes for school, and that made me wonder about the world of differences.

When I was 8, my mother bought me a three metre long Hijab which I had to wear on my uniform and scarf. Then I had to learn praying rituals and sharia laws and I didn't have permission to go out playing anymore.

When I was 9 I reached the age of puberty, which meant I had to hide my entire body except for my face and hands from the eyes of strangers, because one single hair could open the doors to hell for me. Back then I had to wake up before sunrise for praying and wash some parts of my body even in cold weather. I used to bow down thirty four times a day for god, and in spite of my young body, hold the fast through the entire Ramadan and bear the starvation from sunrise to sundown. I watched the boys of the same age playing around and I used to ask myself why they can skip the fasting and praying till the age of sixteen in spite of their stronger bodies. The answer was always the same: god loves women more and it is how he commands and there was some times that I wished to pass through a rainbow and according to the tales become a boy.

At the age of 12 I got my first period and wasn't allowed to pray or even go to religious places and I used to feel that I am so foul that god doesn't even want to hear my voice.

At that age I was frightened of my own body because all the adults had warned me about it as well as my desires through school and TV and everywhere, like a monster was about to born.

So as a result I tried to put on even more hijab. according to sharia law, my voice, my face, my smile, my hairs and my entire body was the source of all sins.

My playmates were growing mustaches and they had found new hobbies and authorities, they were free, they had no boundaries and it seemed like as we grew up, their world became bigger and greater and my world got smaller and more dreadful.

At 16 I was writing poems and going to literature circles, and very soon I found out that the description of love and lovers only belongs to men. I was convinced that there was more important and vital matters in the world than love. In those days I got to know myself and my shackles bit by bit. For example I needed my father or brother's permission for decisions like work, education, traveling and marriage.

At 23 I married a poet, a man who didn't have any religious beliefs. I hoped that I could be released from the world of boundaries and limitations with him.

But I didn't know that he would reject limitations only about himself. His bonds were those biggest and tightest to me. In our entire four years of marriage, I didn't have the right to write poems, go to literature circles, use the internet or even listen to songs about love. I had to hide my poems in the refrigerator because fortunately Kabul didn't have electric those days and no one would drift in.

My connection to the world was completely cut off by him because he loved me and was angry and upset about what he used to call those days "immoral society".

When I was 27, I finally got divorced. My husband denied that my children were from our marriage and accused me of adultery. The slanderous accusation of adultery causes shame and isolation for women and often leads to social deprivation, imprisonment or even stoning to death.

I opened up the first case for slander in the court because I couldn't apply for my children's identity documents without holding their father's identity papers. That was when I found out that I was the first woman who fought an adultery accusation through Afghan legal system.

The judges and prosecutors despised and insulted me so many times and I was helpless with the judgments just because I have talked about my problem instead of being ashamed and hiding myself like all the women in my country do.

In order to be free from the accusation, I needed a DNA paternity test which was not feasible in Afghanistan. so it took me four years until I found an opportunity with the help of many people from civil society and human right activists to embark on a DNA test and defend myself from the allegation.

The cost of a simple test that could change women and children's lives and prevent murders and stoning was not included in the millions of dollars of worldwide aid to Afghanistan.

I was 32 when I was divorced. My ex husband was sentenced for two years in prison while if I had not been able to disprove the accusation I would be sentenced up to fifteen years in prison.

He left the country before facing the sentence. He never paid any subsistence or got any ID for my kids. He remained an honorable poet and still writes about love.

Although the court was on my side at the end and this case provided a way for Afghan women with the same problem to defend themselves, it did not changed my situation much. I still have to put on an armour to be immune to the stones people throw at me everyday, and I almost lost my hope to make the society remove the labels they gave me through my fight.

Last year at 36 I published my memoir from my legal battle. A book full of documents and horrific stories about women in Afghanistan and the truth behind the corruption in judicial system and law. But the first reactions to my book started with these sentences:

"This woman confirms in her book that she doesn't believe in god and talks about making love..."

And I still think about my childhood friends, to the far away and sweet years when there wasn't as much distance between our worlds as it is today.

To the times that I could run in the streets and feel the wind in my hair, the times that i could laugh loudly and stand  shoulder to shoulder with the boys. To the times that my sexuality was not my prison yet. I still can not understand why after all these years the boys have became more mature yet my authorities are still as the same as when I was just a little girl, a child that has always needs a guardian and also has to bear all those strict rules and sharia laws everyday and I have to be frightened to even talk about an answer for these questions. But I wish with all my heart that gods stop their special care for women and love them less and let them grow.

 

With love

A 37 year old child from Afghanistan

 

 Titled Ghadf (meaning “Slander”), Batul’s book chronicles, in Persian, her life after marriage as she fought for divorce, custody, and against defamation.

Titled Ghadf (meaning “Slander”), Batul’s book chronicles, in Persian, her life after marriage as she fought for divorce, custody, and against defamation.