woman with son leave prison

My sin was that I had fled from oppression. It was in winter 2008, my husband beat me and wouldn’t let me go to my job or to my father’s house. He had asked my father for money, and my father loaned to him, but kept no documents to prove it. My husband refused to repay the loans. He wanted to go to Iran.

He said to me, “If you are a loyal wife you will go to Iran with me.” I refused. My father’s family was now so poor. It was a very big loan— thousands of dollars.

So I stayed with my father’s family and when my husband went to find another wife, he and his family lodged a complaint against me in their neighboring province.

Under Afghanistan law, this meant I was now a defendant and I had to go to face this charge in their province. I took my son out of school and we stayed with an uncle. It was so hard for me to be away from my family. I lost my job, my family’s livelihood.

I felt that I was floating between sky and earth. I was terrified and feared for my son as we hid in this house and that house, frightened and confused. Fears took over me. As I held my son’s small hands and he made a noise I slapped his face from fear they would hear him and find us hiding. When I remember how I slapped my son for the people who wanted to destroy me it feels like a dagger pressed into my heart. My body felt cold, dead. I wished for a minute or even a second of happiness. My insides obstreperous, I could not make a decision or speak; by doing nothing I had nothing but sorrow.

These are bad memories for me. First, they found my uncle and my mother and put them in prison and said,   “Until Nasima surrenders we will hold you.” My uncle had to show them the place in our neighbor’s house where I was hidden. They encircled the house and put me in handcuffs. I wondered if I was accused of an unforgiveable sin like murder. They wanted to put me in prison. I was innocent. I came to myself for a minute and found my hands in chains and my son crying in the police car. When I got to the command post I saw harsh faces surrounding me and I said to myself, “What is my sin?”

“What is my crime? Is my sin that I talked, and my husband beat me and I wanted to be free?”

I saw my mother sitting on one side of the command post. She was so sad and upset. My mother’s heart was crying. From her face I could see her saying, “My God, save my daughter from the clutches of the oppressors.”

The commander said to me: “You have two choices. First, if you don’t go to your husband’s house we have to take you to prison. Second, if you don’t want to go to your husband, you must pay money for your husband to divorce you.”

I told them: “I want to have a human life. I am a woman. I was born to my mother free of shackles.” But nobody heard me, and I had to choose. I chose the second way and had to pay money for my husband so he could get another wife for his life, while I would live in destitution and misery. I got a loan to pay it.

Years have passed, but I cannot forget those bitter moments. It is hard. Violence has continued to rain on me because I am a woman whose husband divorced her. I have to hear the quibbling from people around me. But I have one hope: it is my son. He is a rebirth for me.

By Nasima

Photo: Rahmat Gul / AP