Am I Guilty for Being a Woman?

My friend, whom I will call Marya, was born into an educated family, but the family was poor so she tried hard to study and get enough knowledge so she could have good job opportunities.

She graduated from high school and applied for different jobs in her town and finally found a job in a good organization that paid her a high salary. Marya gave her salary to her family. She supported her brother by using her savings to pay his marriage expenses.

No one thought about how she had her own dreams and goals. The marriage age in Afghanistan is between 18 and 27 or 28. If a girl does not get married by then, people say bad things about her. But no one in Marya’s family even thought about finding a husband for her.

Marya kept working. Her family forgot that she wanted to attend university and some day be married. All her friends were getting married. At first, when marriage seekers came to her house to ask for her, her father said that while they were good men, the family still needed Marya’s help.

“Please think about us,” her father said to Marya. “If you agree, your little sister can marry that boy.”

Marya was a good, polite daughter and above all she was an Afghan woman, so she agreed and her little sister married first. Marya was upset, but no one realized how she felt.

Day after day she saw how her younger sister was happy and enjoying her life. But Marya had no chance for happiness. All she did was work. She went to her job and then came home. She decided that if she left her province her life might improve and so she moved to Kabul, found a new job, and lived with her father.

After three years of this, a young man started visiting her office. He was a brother of Marya’s colleague and he asked his brother to introduce him to Marya. The young man was interested in marriage with Marya. At first she worried about what his family would think of her and told her work colleague she wasn’t interested. But a few days later, Marya’s family told her they had received a marriage proposal for her from the same young man.

Marya respected her parents and she accepted their decision for her to marry the young man. She was now thirty. The engagement date was set and Marya was happy to be engaged.

At first the man, whom I will call Ahmad, gave her money. Marya was very happy that someone was willing to give money to her.  But then he began asking her for money for his university expenses. She gave it to him and she hoped her husband-to-be would become a university graduate and give her family a brighter future.

The day Ahmad graduated was the best day of Marya’s life; she had not been able to attend university because her family could not afford it. She was so proud of Ahmad, jumping for joy, and giving sweets to all of her colleagues.

But in addition to helping her fiancé graduate and paying his expenses, Marya was also still taking care of her father’s family expenses. She had a good job that paid her a high salary.

Finally the couple was married and they made a new home together in Kabul.  Marya was now thirty-four. She knew the value of her own home and she decorated it in a modern fashion and was happy. But her in-laws didn’t join the wedding party. Marya didn’t realize it until later, but they hated her. They had wanted Ahmad to marry a niece. Still she was happy that Ahmad loved her and would take care of her.

As time passed, Marya became pregnant. She believed that with the new baby, her in-laws would change. But when scans revealed that Marya’s baby would be a girl, they made it clear they did not want a girl and the abuse began.

Marya worried so much that she became sick. Her husband took care of her, and finally the baby was born. But by then her husband was not coming home often. She occasionally saw a woman’s messages on his cell phone. She tried to find out about the woman. Soon Ahmad was coming home only once a week.

Then Ahmad married again. He took his cousin—the niece his parents had wanted him to marry—as a second wife. 

This has been Marya’s story since 2008. She now has a second child and she is pregnant with a third. The second wife and in-laws want Marya’s children.

She left Kabul with her children to return to her family in the province, but the in-law family kept warning her they will take her children. Marya does not know what to do.

When I talk with her, she asks me, “Why is all this happening to me? What did I do wrong? Am I guilty for being a woman?”

She says, “I want my children and don’t want to give them to the stepmother because she will not take care of my children. I will die if they take my children.”

But I have no solution and don’t know what to tell Marya.

By MaryAm


  1. I hope your friend finds a solution. I wish people — in-laws, spouses, and family members — in this world, not just in the Middle East, could be better than this, so that these problems wouldn’t arise. I’ve heard of them here in America, and it hurts to listen to the stories.

    I appreciate what you have written.

  2. Niki Mihovilovic says:

    Dear MaryAm,
    You have told a very deep and chilling story about a friend, and you were able to tell it so personally that it added to the effect of the account you have written. As I read the story I just kept wondering how amazing people are, especially Marya. It is with no doubt that your friend lives a tough life, yet she is still able to wake up everyday and take care of those close to her. It takes a tremendous heart to care so much for the people around you. In my opinion, Marya is the ideal form of good person which is someone who gives so much and asks for very little in return. My heart dropped towards the end of the story when I found out her husband took a second wife and I cannot imagine the pain that she felt during this time. I can also empathize with you in not knowing what to do to help your friend. I wish that from thousands of miles away behind a keyboard there is an answer hidden somewhere that I can easily type on to here, but unfortunately there isn’t. I am deeply sorry for what has happened to your friend and it is obviously clear that she doesn’t deserve it. I guess all I can say is to keep reminding her of what an amazing person she is, even if no one else can see it. I wish one day that I will be able to meet someone with spirit that Marya has. I am truly sorry.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Dear MaryAm: Thank you so much for sharing your words with us even though it can be hard. Your writing is strong and very thoughtful. I’ts amazing how your friend worked so hard for her family and to help support her family. Most of the time I take for granted how much my family dues for me. As a woman it’s hard to deal with the pressures your family has on you as well. I can’t even imagine the possibility of getting married right now and I’m 19 but a woman should be free to decide what is best for her self. I can tell she is are very strong and makes a great caring mother. It is terrible that her husband would do something like that to her after everything she did for him. He’s second wife should respect the fact that she is not the mother. I really hope you friend gets to keep her children because she deserves them and will take better care of them. Stay strong and keep writing. Your words are a fantastic way to express your self. Thank you so much.

    With much care, Amanda

  4. My Lord this is an awful situation for Marya. Utterly devastating. The idea that she is supposed to allow the second wife and her family to become the primary caregivers to her children–I would rather die, too! Yet is is horrible in this life–if all of your family wants you to make one decision, it can be very hard to go your own way, especially if doing so means you will sever ties will all of the kin you’ve ever loved. Perhaps when you’re younger, this may feel like an easier sacrifice–but maybe not. It is of course possible, but at a cost. The reality is, though, that being free –or at least, having some sense of control over one’s destiny and hard work– is often worth the cost. It is just sad that her loved ones have pushed her into this situation. I truly hope that she can find a way to keep her children, but also find the mate and love from that mate that she deserves.

  5. I really enjoyed reading your story. I find it crazy that the in-laws were so unwilling to accept who their son loves. I also was shocked they were not happy with her having a baby girl, they should be excited for any child. I appreciate this story and I hope she is able to keep her own children.

  6. We here in the U.S. are often told that NATO occupation of Afghanistan (for 11 years!) has improved conditions for women and girls. I find this story to be evidence that conditions are no better than they were in 2001 when the invasion began. I will not accept falsehoods about Afghan women and girls which are put forth to fool the public.

    Thank you for writing about your friend and her situation. I hope she is able to find a way to follow her own heart and survive her terrible marriage.

  7. Shah khan says:

    My dear sister you shared a very important story. I think you know the solution. If you want do help her the you contact with Olasmashar Hamid Karzae. I hope he will do something. If I can help you it will a pleasure for me. Manana

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