In 2008, I participated in a workshop with other disabled people for three days. We talked about the rights of the disabled. Right now, many girls and boys in Afghanistan are disabled from either polio or war. At the workshop, I met a girl who was disabled from polio like me. I sat near her. I introduced myself. She said her name was Manizha, and she shared her story with me.
When she was two years old, she had a fever and her family took her to a doctor who gave her some injections. After that, she could not walk very well. When she was nine years old, she wanted to go to school, but her family told her, “You cannot go to school because you are a disabled girl.”
Then she had to stay home and work in her house. When she reached 14 years old, her parents wanted her to get married. She was not happy with this plan, but her family told her, “You are a disabled girl. Few would agree to marry you; this is a good chance for you.”
She told her family: “No, I do not want to get married.” Her family was so angry at her. They said, “We do not have more money, more clothes, and more food to give you.” So she was forced to finally accept the marriage.
She asked her parents about the man she was going to marry. Her parents told her he was rich, handsome, a good guy, and 20 years old. After two months, her family said: “You need to get ready for the wedding.”
As she told me her story, suddenly Manizha stopped talking and started crying. “What happened? Why you are crying?” I asked her. Then she dried her eyes and began talking again.
“On my wedding day, the boy did not come to our house, but he sent his car for me. I asked from my mom and dad, why he is not coming? It was our wedding day. My father told me, ‘My sweetheart, he had some problem. He couldn’t come to wedding.’
“Then I went to my new husband’s house. When I arrived, a few women welcomed me. I went to my room and sat waiting for my husband. Suddenly the door opened and an old man entered. He was around 55 years old. I said: ‘Hi uncle!’ He looked at me for one second and then he slapped me. I fell down and I said “Why? What is wrong?’ He said: ‘I am your husband, not your uncle.’
“When I heard that, I fell down again and I could not talk for an hour. Every day, he hit me and told me all the time, ‘You are lucky I married you. You are a disabled girl and nobody would ever marry you.’ After two months, he told me: ‘I do not need you in my life.’ Then I returned to my father‘s house. My family was very sad about it.
“My family and others said bad things about me. My relatives came to our house and they said, ‘You are a disabled girl. Why did you get married? You do not need to get married.’ I thought to myself that I’d heard enough of that. One day I went to my room, planning to commit suicide, but my father did not let me. He said: ‘How can I show my face to people?’ Then my mother said: ‘You need to go to school,’ and my father said, ‘Never will she go to school.’
My mother and father fought over this and then I cried and said, ‘Please, Dad, kill me.’ When my father heard that, he started crying too and he said, ‘I am sorry, my daughter. I am really sorry.’ I hugged my dad and, crying, said, ‘It is okay, Dad. Forget the past and think about the future.’ He said: ‘After today, you can go to school.’ So I went to school when I was seventeen years old. People were laughing at me. This is my life story and right now I cannot push myself anymore.”
I told her “No, this is wrong. You can do anything, if you want.”
She was quiet for a while and then she asked me: “Sana, what is your problem?” I said: “The same problem. I had polio also. When I go to school, people laugh at me, and they make me sad, but I do not care.”
“You are strong but I am not,” she said.
“No, you are also strong. You have to push yourself,” I said.
Then the teacher came and we all talked about disability rights. They said a disabled person has the right to go to school, work in an office, go outside, and get married.
At that point, Manizha began to cry, and told everyone, “I want to kill myself.”
I got very angry and said, “Why do you want to die? We need to do something to show our families and the world that we can do anything and we have rights in our life.” I said we are not the disabled ones; the people who laugh at us and forbid us are disabled.
She dried her eyes and came to stand near me and gave me a kiss. She said, “You are right. I will do anything to show everybody that disabled people have rights in their lives.” Then she had a smile on her face and she began clapping for me and everyone began clapping.
I saw Manizha about three months later, and she hugged and kissed me and said, “You changed my life. Right now I am very happy with my family and I am working in an office and I am engaged.”
I was so happy to hear that. And I want to tell every disabled person: You can do anything; you have a right to your life.