“I told my father I didn’t want to marry him: ‘why are you doing this to me?’ My father said ‘you are of an age to be married and this is my decision, not yours.'”
This is what Saraya said on a new tv show in Kabul, Afghanistan, her face hidden behind a mask painted blue and white. She went on to tell more about her life, forced at 15 to marry a known sex offender, age 58. After they were married, he brought women to the house for the purpose of raping them. Her youngest, age 4, asked Saraya why the women were there. Fearing for her daughter, Saraya decided to take her 3 children and flee.
In the control room people wept. Among the religious and legal experts in the audience, one stood up to say, “Your marriage at such a young age to such an older man is against Islam. His behavior is against Islam and against the law.” But that view does not conform to the reality of many women’s lives in Afghanistan.
The reality tv show is called, “Niqab”–Mask. It is the brainchild of Sami Mahdi, inspired by the quiet courage of his own mother and the many women like her. It is a new idea, and I hope, a revolutionary one. Surely when the voices of suffering are heard, people will be moved to change.
Someday it might even be safe to put down the mask, to be seen as well as heard.