South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

On the eve of the darkest day for Afghanistan in two decades, I cried. I still can’t stop crying. The sobs don’t subside, and my shaky breaths are in vain. In times of great distress, of grief, of horror, tears do not listen to the human consciousness. They fall without mercy as the ache sets in and your heart is arrested in pain, lungs ballooned.

Crowds of men, toting guns and white flags, rushed the streets of Afghanistan in triumph this past week. The world has designed their victory – it was written into history books decades ago. Women speak their hearts out live on international news networks, their anguish and despondency lacing every syllable. Their fathers and mothers look nervously to the door, waiting for the bang on the door that will signal their doom. By their very act of vocalising their thoughts, they are condemned as a sinner. A sinner to be dragged down pebbled streets and flogged publicly, as they beg for basic kindness and humanity.

Miles away, we are not much different. Our people hold the same values, the same ideals that have defined us for centuries past and centuries to come. As a young girl, I am scared. When I go out and hear men leering and throwing suggestive glances, I am scared. When I have to sit in a room with only men, closed doors and far removed, I am scared. When I have to go to the doctor, and he lifts up my shirt to scan my midriff, I am scared. I am so young yet the fear that encloses every room I enter will be my companion for life. The terror eats away at my soul.

As someone who withstands mocking jibes and taunts for her feminist remarks, I am labeled as a naive, westernised liberal. Why do we need feminism? You can vote, you can drive, you can work, and by extension you are free. This is why, because the world you tell me is so kind has twisted people into monsters who will take my every right, my every wish at the behest of their leaders, at their own arbitrary command.

I feel true fear, like nothing I’ve ever known before, for the Afghani women in Kabul, in Kandahar, who will walk out alone for the last time. Who will wear makeup and taste freedom for the last time. Who will have gone to school, to university, for their last day. Who will have understood that now, they are no longer people, autonomous beings in control of their decisions and their bodies but sold to warlords as child-breeding slaves and nothing more.

Tonight, to every person who has scorned feminism, pray to god that the Afghani women can see the light of freedom tomorrow morning. Miracles are rare and our collective apathy for women, children and men suffering in Afghanistan, will not make them happen. The child pestering her mother on wanting to meet her friends and play in the school playground, to greet her favourite teacher, will not see a miracle tonight. Instead, she will be bundled off to the hands of a Taliban insurgent. Tomorrow morning, she will wake a bride, one expected to rear children and forgo her own childhood and freedom.

To governments celebrating their withdrawal, and muttering good riddance behind our backs, one day, you will realise the same terror that girl feels today. She is 12, you are 20, 30, 40 and 50 and you were supposed to provide a better life for her, but you have failed her.

Today, I will tell you why feminism matters. To me, to my friends, the brave women on TV and to that little girl. We deserve a life dictated by our dreams and desires, not that of a society forcing our hand. Not a fragile life in danger of collapse and corruption.

The girl and I are years apart but from thousands of miles away, the pain she feels fits in the shapes of my own. Her hands are shackled by the steel of oppression, and she bleeds the price of our indifference. I can only hope, endlessly, that one day she will be free and so will Afghanistan.

Hana Kamarudeen is a student residing in Kochi, and a closeted writer with a penchant for run-on sentences.

Featured image credit: Pariplab Chakraborty