My maternal uncle was supposed to propose to me for his son. I was perhaps the first over 20 years old girl in the village who had not yet married. Because of my mother’s illness, my father had not yet married me off to take care of her. But my mother used to say: “A girl whose breasts can be identifiable from under her clothes should get married.”
The villagers used to backbite me and everyone thought that my celibacy had nothing to do with my mother’s illness. I had heard several times the words like: “Sakina does not have virginity, that’s why she does not marry.” But I didn’t understand what virginity was and what lacking it meant. Of course, my mother used to say: “Virginity is equal to a girl’s life. A girl who goes to her husband’s house with no virginity should commit suicide.”
When the first menstruation occurred to me, I was scared. I thought I had lost something in my body, perhaps my virginity; But when my mother found out, she said: “No. You are menstruated, make sure no one knows it”.
The fear of having or lacking virginity was with me from childhood to adolescence and to those days when the whole villagers were backbiting me.
I was supposed to marry my maternal uncle’s son after the month of Ramadan. It was the 19th night of Ramadan (Qadr Night) and others had gone to the mosque. Around midnight, someone knocked on the door. I thought it was my father who had returned from the mosque. Without asking, I opened the door.
When I opened the door, I saw Reza (pseudonym), a neighbor’s son, whose house was about three minutes away from ours. He rushed into the hall, putting his hand firmly on my mouth. No matter how hard I tried, I could not get rid of him. He took me to the kitchen and punched me hard in the stomach. I was unable to breathe or move. I fell to the ground.
In the middle of a hard struggle for rescue, I just felt hot water poured on my body. When I came around, I felt my bones had been squashed. I did not know what had happened to me. Reza had absconded and his fingermarks were left on my upper arms.
I couldn’t tell anyone, even my mother, about it. She was more misogynistic than any man. When the Taliban had flogged two women in the district center for talking and laughing with a stranger man, instead of condemning the Taliban, my mother said: “The two women must have been shameless, otherwise no woman talks and laughs with a stranger man.”
During the Taliban’s first rule (1996-2001), women were not allowed to go out. Two or three days a week, the Taliban soldiers used to come to a seashore in our village to catch fish. The women in the village were extremely afraid of the Taliban. I thought that if I told the story to my mother, she would hand me over to the Taliban to stone me.
From that night on, I hated myself and felt my body was dirty. For a while, I used to wash my body more frequently. Perhaps a month and a half had passed since that night when I began to feel nauseous. After two-three days, I told my mother that I felt nauseous for several days. “You must have inhaled a lot of smoke while baking bread,” she told me, advising “drink some doogh and you will be fine.”
A week passed and I was getting worse day by day. Even the smell of fresh bread made me nauseous. My mother began to doubt. I remember well that she wrapped her chador around her face, saying: “I think you, the bitch girl, have disgraced yourself, tell me what happened, right now.”
I had to tell her. I told my mother exactly what had happened to me on the Qadr Night. I told her that I thought I was pregnant. She went crazy and started beating me with everything she had at hand. Then, she told my father everything.
I can never forget my father’s words and curses. “You she-ass must have wanted it yourself,” he said while beating me with a rope. “How can someone encroach on someone else by force!?”
To prevent the scandal spread among the villagers, my father had gone to Reza’s father that evening and told him the whole story. He had asked Reza’s father to come to our home for a marriage proposal, but he had refused. Scared of my growing stomach, after several days, my father gathered the village men and told them that Reza had assaulted his daughter, Sakina, and now he had to marry her.
Reza’s father refused to accept that his son had done such a shameful thing. The villagers decided that both sides, my and Reza’s father, should put their hands on the Quran and swear that they do not lie. Reza’s father finally accepted his son’s crime. When it came to the Quran, my father still doubted me. “Didn’t you sleep with someone else?” he asked me several times.
Then he said angrily: it is to be regretted that killing a person is unlawful, otherwise I would have erased you, the blot. After a few days, people concluded that Reza had to marry me and pay the full dowry to my father.
Finally, I had to marry a man who had raped me while I was unconscious and my father took cows and sheep from his father. For the next three years that I lived with Reza out of necessity, I saw him as a legal rapist. By reading a few Arabic words, the Mullah of the mosque had allowed him to rape me without fear.
My mother, the Murderer
When I was supposed to marry Reza, my mother decided to abort my pregnancy before the wedding. My parents had told the people that Reza had assaulted me while I was washing clothes at the edge of the stream. I was four months pregnant. One night, my mother forced me to take a lot of opium. I didn’t accept, but my mother forced me, saying: “You were infelicitous, and that’s enough. If I had known from the beginning that you would be born on the Day of Ashura, I would have thrown you away. Now you want to bring up an illegitimate child?”
I was bleeding for 48 hours until the baby came out of my stomach with blood clots. My wedding day was more like bartering livestock. Reza’s father brought a herd of goats and sheep to our home to take me to his own home. When I arrived at Reza’s house, the first thing his father told me, was: “You are impure. We have separated all your dishes. You are not allowed to come to our room.”
I slept in the hayloft for a week. Then, Reza cleaned a corner of it and made a small room with brick. I lived alone in this corner of hayloft for more than three years. My food and all other belongings were separate from those of others. Reza sometimes came to me only to obviate his sexual needs. I didn’t like to have sexual intercourse with him, but he would rape me as he did the first time; while, the whole Sharia and tradition and society were supporting him.
Escaping the Rape
After three years of living in the corner of a hayloft and doing a lot of hard work, I got sick. My father reluctantly took me to the doctor in the district center. The doctor said that I had tuberculosis and needed to be treated for a while in the hospital. But My father didn’t accept or perhaps he didn’t want me to survive.
We returned home. Reza’s father did not allow me to go back to their house which was worse than a prison and a torture room. My father had to take me with him. His house was not a better place for me than the previous house. This time, my father made a small place inside the stable for me and I had to sleep there at night. During the day, according to the doctor’s advice, I had to come out for sunbathing in order to get better.
After a short while, Reza’s father sent my bill of divorce. “I kept your daughter for three years because of an ‘unjust accusation’,” he had told my father, adding “I can no longer keep your naughty daughter”. I did not hear a supporting word from my father. Later, my mother made finally realized that I was right, I was a victim. But she didn’t do anything for me. Although, I entitle her that she was not in a condition to do anything for me.
Second Wife of an Old Man
Two years after I received my bill of divorce, my maternal uncle who was supposed to propose to me for his son, came to our house with a man. The man’s first wife was barren and he decided to marry another woman. Wanted to drive me out of his house as soon as possible, My father accepted his proposal to marry me, without saying a word.
This way, at the age of 27, I became the second wife of a 45-year-old man, but my life became better than ever. We came to Kabul a year after the defeat of the first regime of the Taliban and, with the help of my husband’s first wife, I started learning literacy books.