When I was deciding what to major in at school, my mother said that I should be whatever I want to be, but that I should prepare myself to help and serve women. When I asked why, she told me the story of something that happened in 2004. The story was meant to motivate others to have a one mission: to never let anybody else be treated this way again.
Tahira was not usually home at noon when the boys were out of school because she was a shepherdess. She had ten sheep, and every day went up into the mountains.
One day in the mountains Tahira had a flash of what her future held. She was old and the neighbors were asking if she was to be married soon. Since she spoke her mind and sang songs, unlike the other girls in the village, no one came to Tahira’s house about marriage. Her father was a janitor in Iran and it was hard for him to afford Tahira’s marriage expenses. The family had little time to gather together and people in the village did not like Tahira. Her mother always was telling her that she was useless, how no one liked her and that she was a burden.
One day, Tahira’s mother went up to the mountain with the sheep and assigned Tahira to stay home and do house chores. Tahira sat in front of the window sewing. At noon she saw a crowd of boys going home from school. She saw a boy wearing a beautiful white kurta gazing at her and smiling.
Like any girl would do when she realized a man was looking at her, Tahira hid herself, but the smile remained in her mind. The next day in the mountains she saw the same boy, and realized he had not gone to school. She ignored him, but noticed that he was following her from a distance. This happened every day at noon. They started talking, and after a week Tahira knew his name was Ahmad and that he loved her.
Tahira was thinking about how in a place where nobody, not even her mother, loved her, here was someone who loves her and would live with her and be happy. Ahmad went to propose to Tahira. But it turned out that Tahira’s grandfather had a past conflict with Ahmad’s grandfather and therefore a marriage could not take place.
The couple planned to escape from home and go to the mountains and get married anyway. One day Ahmad got his motorbike and went to Tahira’s house. As the couple was leaving, a neighbor named Ali saw them. Ali was an old enemy of Tahira’s family. He went to the family and reported what he had seen, and then he spread the word to the village.
Ahmad’s motorbike broke on the way out of the village. They had no place to hide for the coming night. Ahmad was too scared to walk with Tahira all night. He knew the villagers would find them and so he told her to go back home.
When Tahira got back home, everyone in the neighborhood knew what she had done because of Ali. Her uncle and her mother beat her. The next day they tied a rope around the girl’s neck, and dragged her to Ahmad’s school. Her uncle and mother asked the principal of the school to find Ahmad. Within a half hour the boy was found. The principal and the uncle beat the boy and Tahira in front of everyone. They beat Ahmad until he said he regretted the decision he made to be with Tahira, and then her mother and uncle took her back home.
Tahira was locked in a black room where the family cooked over a fire. The walls were black. The floor was black. Everything was black with soot. They tied her with a rope to a column in the middle of the room for seven days. During this time her brother’s wife, Taj Gul, was the only one who sometimes sneaked into the black room to bring her food. Tahira begged her for help, but Taj Gul could not help her because if she did, she would be punished in Tahira’s place.
Taj Gul asked Tahira’s aunt to talk to Tahira’s mother, but the aunt refused to help and instead tried to convince the mother to kill Tahira. After a week in the black room, the mother had agreed the best idea was to kill her daughter.
Taj Gul warned Tahira that her mother would come with a glass of liquid for her, but that it would be poison. On the seventh day Tahira was extremely thirsty and hungry. When her mother brought her the glass of poison, she refused to drink it, but she knew that she would soon be weak enough not to be able to resist, and was scared.
The next day was a good, sunny day and the villagers were busy doing their everyday chores when they suddenly saw fire at the house. They thought it was their firewood for winter and rushed to save it but when they reached the house they smelled burning flesh. When the building collapsed the villagers knew that it was Tahira’s flesh they had smelled.
Tahira’s uncle and mother had come to the black room with a container of gas. Without speaking to the girl they tied another rope around her and the uncle threw the gas on her.
Tahira knew that she was facing her last minutes on earth. Her mother threw a lit match on her daughter’s gas-covered body. She could hear the girl’s screams as they left and locked the door. The black room was made out of wood and it all quickly collapsed.
The villagers were shocked by what they saw. On the door that remained were pieces of skin that the neighbors said showed she tried to escape. The villagers collected her remains after finding out that the mother and uncle had fled. Some of the villagers went to the police station to inform them about what happened. But the mother and uncle had already escaped to Iran. They buried Tahira’s remains.
If somebody asked me “Why don’t you watch horror movies,” my answer would be because I hear too many horror stories in life and in my home when people get together. They tell these stories because they could happen to me.
I respect what others do, no matter what and how they do it, but I cannot change who I am because someone doesn’t like me. I don’t wear clothes a certain group wants me to wear. I am not a traditional girl, keeping everything inside me in order to “keep the honor.” As a human I choose and know what is right and wrong. I believe that if I do what I know is right then someday my fellow Afghans will also do what is right. And someday we will all live the way we want, and still love each other.
Photo: Mohammad Ismail / Reuters