Today my heart goes out for a friend I used to meet each weekend, before her marriage last year. Maryam loved beautiful dresses with blue colors, and she longed to live a fancy, peaceful life. She would often ask me to decorate her skinny hands with henna. She had a dream to be loved by her family.
Maryam was thirteen. She grew up with no real mother; she was married last year to a twenty-year-old soldier who spends most of his time in the mountains fighting against the Taliban.
Maryam was happy to marry at an early age because her stepmother behaved cruelly with her. She did not allow her go to school and always made her do the housework. At one point we all thought marriage might be the best hope for Maryam. Her future husband had promised to let her go to school and get an education. But the situation came out differently after the marriage.
Her mother-in-law didn’t let Maryam go to school. Maryam became a slave for her in-laws. Her other friends and I were no longer allowed by her in-laws to meet her on the weekends.
While Maryam’s husband was away, her mother-in-law used to treat Maryam like an animal. Maryam was tortured almost to death in front of the neighbors. Nobody objected or said anything against Maryam’s mother-in-law.
Maryam couldn’t decide what to do. She tried hard to influence her husband to live a separate life, but he wasn’t ready to leave his parents and rent a house.
Maryam found herself in the middle with no way out. She hated her life. If she went back to her parents’ home, her stepmother would treat her badly, and if she stayed with her mother-in-law’s family, she could not tolerate the violence.
She decided to end her life by eating rat poison. She was alive for hours and threw up blood and pieces of meat, which were from her stomach. She died in the hospital, a few hours after eating the poison.
Maryam left us as someone alone who had all her dreams of living a simple life. Maryam left forever uneducated.
While people make different statements about male-dominated society of Afghanistan, the real culprits of Maryam’s death are women themselves, her stepmother and mother-in-law. Their deeds led her to decide to end her life.
Maryam’s life is a grim example of lack of education. Uneducated Maryam became prey to her uneducated stepmother and mother-in-law.
I want this example to widen my people’s thoughts about what can happen to their daughters if they don’t let them get education and become independent so they can defend their rights.
Photo by Elyas Wahdat/Reuters