I was on my way to the university, when I got on the bus and found a seat next to an old woman. Her head was covered, and her face was wrinkled. A teenage boy stood in front of us. He was short and fat and he was holding a number of chapters of the Quran Sharif holy books. He asked us to buy them.

I told him, “I have a copy.” He urged me again to buy one. Again I told him, “I have several chapters of Quran Sharif, please don’t disturb me.” 

But he continued to insist. “I don’t have enough money,” I said. “Doesn’t matter, you can give just half,” he said. “I’ll give you one chapter.” 

I agreed and bought one chapter. Then the boy turned to the woman sitting next to me, and she covered herself with her black hijab. The boy insisted that she buy from him. The woman got upset and said loudly, “I do not want to buy. Go from here or I will hit you.”

The boy dropped a chapter of the Quran on her knee and got off the bus. 

The woman shouted, “You try to make me feel guilty! That is not the way to sell the Quran.” He again urged her to pay him money, but the woman refused. 

He went and brought another salesman in an old coat to join him and then he claimed that she did not pay him. The woman said, “You dropped it on my knee. I do not want it and you can take it back.” 

Suddenly the man began abusing her by yelling, “You slut! Women have money to buy dresses and make-up, but you do not have money to buy the holy Quran.” 

At this point, I burst out, “Your behavior must come to an end, Mister! You don’t have the right to abuse women because of not buying what you are selling. Why didn’t you ask any men to buy the Quran? Is it because they are not Muslim or because they have no need for one?” 

The man raised his voice and said, “It doesn’t concern you. Don’t get in the middle of this.” 

I was continuing to talk to that brash man, when he said, “She must pay the money or else I will hit her.” Our argument continued until a traffic officer got into the car and interfered. He also blamed us for not buying the Quran Sharif. 

Finally, the argument was over and the bus moved. 

For the rest of the ride I thought how miserable it is to be a woman in Afghanistan.

Women have always been abused for things they have not done. Why didn’t that boy ask a man to buy a chapter of the Quran Sharif? Why did he choose a woman? Why are we always to blame for everything? Even the traffic officer and other people on the bus knew that it was not our fault, but they still thought we were guilty, not that salesman. 

Why? Because he is a man and he has more rights than women. There is never any shame when a man is loud or pushy, but a woman is shamed for everything, including speaking or laughing or arguing with men.

How long must we tolerate this kind of treatment?

By Sitara

Art by FK; photo by Omar Sobhani / Reuters