Am I Human or a Goat?

goat handler

Now that I am growing older, I find myself questioning the unquestionable and strongly held beliefs of my culture. I struggle with the beliefs and logic of the society I grew up in; I struggle with the mindset I am “supposed” to have.

At times, I raise my voice and try to question. Sometimes the roots of my culture send me into despair. They seem too strong to be changed.

In my country we have peace in many of the provinces, yet there is still bloodshed. We have freedom, yet many are slaves. We have security, yet many live insecure lives. We have equality, yet many are accepted as unequal beings.

I belong to that “slave” category. On the surface I have equal rights, yet beneath I am an unequal creature.

I am a woman, whose mere existence is questionable, whose birth goes uncelebrated, whose existence is treated like a crime, if it is acknowledged at all. In some places, a girl is not even counted in the number of children one has.

If I look through the prism of my religion going back 1400 years, little has changed. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) came to give us our rights. Time passed, civilizations rose and fell, governments changed, climates, culture, people changed, but in our part of the world, ideas about women went unchanged.

When I compare the situation for women in our country with that in neighboring countries, it seems that discrimination and injustice have been ingrained as part of our fate. The form changes. In places like India, the practice of female infanticide goes on, while in other places girls are kept alive to use in future business deals.

Women have been traded like goats or cattle for many years in this land. I would take the liberty of calling it a goat business and myself a goat too.

A girl child is raised, given water, food and shelter, much as a goat is raised until it has put on a sufficient amount of meat. A girl is raised until she reaches puberty. Then, as the goat is sold, so is the girl.

A Kandhari girl rate is 4 lakh (400,000 Afg). In Badakhshan girls fetch 7 lakh. For a Kabuli, the rate may be even higher.

This goat selling culture has different names among different ethnicities.

Hazara call it gala, Uzbek qalein, Pashtun walwar, Tajik sheer baha or tuyana. Other ethnicities use other names.

I sometimes wonder how it is that all these various ethnic groups managed to sustain their grievances against one another in fights that lasted thirty years, yet when it comes to discrimination against women they are unified in following the same archaic culture.

Sheer baha basically means that the boy’s family has to pay for the amount of milk that a girl has drunk as a child.

Alas, I live in a country where I don’t even have rights to my mother’s milk: even that is a liability that my would-be groom’s family has to pay back.

So here I am in this land, in this goat market, among a thousand other goats. I, too, am a goat awaiting an unknown fate.

By Freshta K.

Photo: Ali Yussef

This essay was reprinted in the Winter 2014 issue of Tethered By Letters.


  1. That “girls are kept alive as future business deals” — Freshta, so much of your essay, so much of the reality you document so powerfully, it chills me to the bone. In my country, there is a history of selling children, and girls, and boys, and men, and women, and we live with that legacy. But this is your present. No one wants to call it by it’s name, but you name it, and in saying it you are parting the clouds, you are allowing light to shine. You are very eloquent, Freshta, and your eyes see clearly what is happening around you–the beautiful and the wicked. Please keep up the excellent work. Thank you for your bravery and your generosity. Stacy

    P.S. “Sheer baha”. Wow. Takes my breath away.

  2. Bitter realities of countries in transition.. mayb controversial for many… but rather than putting under the is to talk abt it… and mend ways… I am sure but it will ruffle few feathers. However, as a writer one should not shy away from speaking the truth..although one needs to be careful to the sensibilities of the people. Powerful writing!

  3. Nancy Antle says:

    Freshta — Powerful, well written work that speaks the truth about how women are treated. You have shown this discrimination against women for what it is — archaic. Your underlying message that it is time for a change is completely clear. Thank you for your bravery in writing about a subject that many simply take as “the way things are.” Well done! Nancy

  4. Pat Dunnigan says:

    Eloquent and brave.

  5. Rosemary Ciotti says:

    Dear Freshta K,
    Your writing is powerful. When I finished reading your story all I could do was sit and stare at my computer screen. Your choice of words, the way you linked your sentences, created a searing image in my brain. Please keep writing. Your writing is a gift to you and the World.

  6. Sophie says:

    Dear Freshta,
    Your writing style is so clear and powerful. “I don’t even have rights to my mother’s milk”, “whose birth goes uncelebrated”: such lines are incredibly potent. You structured your writing very effectively to make a compelling argument. The metaphor of women as goats will stay with me, and your voice is the perfect counter-argument :) Keep writing!

  7. Olivia Kate Cerrone says:

    Dear Freshta:

    Thank you for sharing these brave, brave words. Your courage to portray these realities so eloquently and yet with such biting honesty is so powerful. I read your words with tears in my eyes because so many have suffered and continue to suffer so senselessly.

    I agree with what you have said here: “I sometimes wonder how it is that all these various ethnic groups managed to sustain their grievances against one another in fights that lasted thirty years, yet when it comes to discrimination against women they are unified in following the same archaic culture.”

    Discrimination and oppression share the same ugly face in every society. Your experiences transcend across cultures. Your words are so important because they help others find hope and empowerment when it may feel otherwise impossible to do so. Keep sharing your voice. The world is listening.

  8. Ashley Osborne says:

    Dear Freshta,
    I have recently read some of your stories. I was most intrigued with the story you wrote called “Am I Human or a Goat?” It was interesting to read, and it intrigued me. Your story was very powerful and made me think about what my life is like compared to you. In my country, women are not treated the way they are in your country. Yes, men are more recognized but girls are too, not as much but they are.
    In my country we are labeled as the rich, the average, and the poor. I fall under the average. We are a free country, but in a way we are not. We do as were told and try not to step on each others toes. Everyone is equal, until someone points out a flaw. To make people feel insecure they use their flaws against them. Your story had a strong message. It is the truth about how women are treated differently. Also, it is the truth on how everyone is labeled, and are not as equal.
    You are a great writer and you should keep writing. I enjoyed reading your stories and seeing what it is like in another country.


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