Posted in Miscellany

*Behind Her Mask in Afghanistan

“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.

Full story here.



Lilian is the author of Web of Angels, a novel about a mom with DID (multiple personalities). She's also the author of the historical novels, The River Midnight and The Singing Fire, about secrets, friendship and motherhood in 19th century Poland and London.

5 thoughts on “*Behind Her Mask in Afghanistan

  1. Such venality as anti-women cultures like this display makes me gag. It is a good, if dangerous, thing that there is such a public approach to ethical remonstrance as this masked-woman show. I know it is a pebble against a rock slide, but at least it is there.

  2. It seems extraordinary that this is still going on. I read an Assia Djebar book a while ago that mentioned the old marriage customs in Persia as was. The woman being proposed to was kept behind a closed door, and if she didn’t respond to the offer, the mother or whoever was with her, would hit her head against the door, this being a signal of acceptance. A sob would do, as well. Utterly barbaric.

  3. There’s an article over at Letter from Hardscrabble Creek that talks about Bob Ellwood’s idea that Islam is in the “reformation” stage just as Christianity was the 16th century. The barbarity of that time does seem dreadfully reminiscent of today’s Islamic attitude toward women. If Ellwood is right, though, this will change, just as it did in Christianity. That is, misogyny won’t go away, but it will become less socially acceptable.

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