I Am for Sale, Who Will Buy Me? The Epilogue in Afghanistan

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Afghan women wait for their turn to get registered at a voter registration centre in Kabul July 13, 2010. Afghanistan will hold parliamentary elections on September 18. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood (AFGHANISTAN - Tags: ELECTIONS POLITICS IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Editor’s note: This is a follow-up from the essay that ran in January, I Am For Sale, Who Will Buy Me?, by a writer who faced a forced marriage. Thanks to an outpouring of help from readers and others, she was able to match the bride price and buy her freedom. This is what her life has been like since then.

I was for sale, and had three months to find a solution or accept my fate. I stood with helpless hands, but I was lucky, the luckiest woman in my country; with help, I was able to buy my freedom. Among millions of Afghan women, I stood up to our crazy culture and its violence against females. After I bought my freedom, I thought it was the end of violence against me, the end of torment in my life, the end of tears.

My family moved from the house where they were living, hiding their new location from Uncle. Uncle began searching for me, following me step by step. He did not know I had married another, but our disappearance posed a question. I was a wanted person for him. I had broken his pride and power; I stood in front of his money and wealth. Because of this, Uncle wanted one thing: revenge. He no longer wanted to buy me as a wife for his son. Now, he wanted to buy me as a slave.

He found my brother and kidnapped him, taking him to southern Afghanistan, and sent warnings. He wanted me, but my coward uncle held my brother to try to find me. Uncle sent word that if I didn’t appear before him and answer his questions in front of a jirga (a tribal assembly of elders that makes decisions by consensus), he would cut off my brother’s fingers. I didn’t know what to do, but I told myself it was my right to buy myself, to buy my freedom.

A month passed in this way. Then I learned Uncle had cut off three of my brother’s fingers. I can’t tell you the pain I felt. I didn’t think I had my own fingers. It was my fault because I know my country; I know my family.

Now Uncle knows I am married to another, and he can’t tolerate it, that a woman broke his pride and power. “How dare she escape from my decisions? How dare a woman do this? I don’t let a woman stand in front of me.” Uncle sent a message to my mother, ordering me to appear before him, to say I’m sorry, and he wants my husband to apologize too and give Uncle one of his sisters as a slave. Uncle wants another deal; he wants his pride back. He wants to continue enmity generation by generation, and he wants not only me, but my children and all my family to pay the price for my decision.

When I bought myself, I was proud of my success. I still am, but I also am not. I can’t forgive myself if all my family members are sad, disturbed and disabled for me. Did I deserve freedom so that another young girl must now give up hers? Did I deserve the freedom that cost my brother part of his body? Is it ever possible to bring a positive change when we struggle against forced arranged marriage?

I live with my husband, and we are happy, very happy, but we feel life is short. We wait to hear what Uncle will do next. To be honest, I sometimes feel I don’t have the energy to continue, but I think of a man who took my hands and taught me all men are not cruel. I am concerned for my husband, and I live for him and my sick mother and my dreams for my education.

I don’t see a solution. In my country, I am considered bad, and people blame me for standing against my family, failing to respect my elders, and rejecting a life serving the husband my uncle chose for me whom I didn’t love. Only my pen tolerates my choices. I bought my freedom, but violence still follows me, and I can’t escape, and I still wish I was not a woman.

This essay is part of the Afghan Women’s Writing Project founded by novelist Masha Hamilton. Under the project, Afghan women write in secure online workshops taught by published American novelists, poets, memoirists, screenwriters and journalists. The strongest pieces are posted online on a blog. The AWWP is aimed at giving women a voice at a time when Afghanistan appears to be growing more conservative. The project encourages participants to claim their own stories and publishes them under their first names. In very rare cases—and this is one—the writers, who are well-known to AWWP, feel they can only safely share beyond the project if they do so anonymously.

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