Editor’s note: This is the fourth in an autobiographical series by our writer that begins with her birth. Destiny Awaits: a Lyric Essay, Born in an Iran Refugee Camp, and What Is My Crime? were the first three.
I was sixteen years old. In my mind I could hear: “Tonight commotion is in my mind, tonight light is in my heart”—the song by Iranian singer Shakila who I loved listening to.
Every evening, the nightingales in the trees by our house serenaded me with songs of joy, happiness, and excitement. I was a girl with dreams and hopes of studying, having a job and working for her land.
But all of those dreams were destroyed by my family when they decided I would be recognized only as “virtuous goods”—a girl to sell.
I shattered like window glass, but without sound. Nobody heard my screaming in the silence.
I was unaware of so many things—I did not understand the concept and meaning of marriage. People came to the house to see if I was suitable. I didn’t know this was going on. They were not his parents; they were friends of his family. They accepted me and then their men talked with our men, according to Afghan tradition. I didn’t know that men also came to our home.
I thought that when my parents are satisfied it means everything is good—because they are my parents. They always said to me: “Parents never do anything against their children.”
But is it true?
It is very hard to describe all my feelings at the time. I could not question my father about it. He was sad and angry. I knew I should respect everything that my father approved.
But I heard my father tell my younger brother: “He has a wife and one daughter.”
When I heard this, I was very afraid and very sad. I went to my mother while she cooked bread in the hand oven. I said to my mom: “I heard he has a wife and daughter.”
My mother was silent. But there was a flame of regret in my mother’s heart. She said nothing.
He was about twenty years older then me. He had married about three years before and he had no son. This meant the only reason he wanted me was for getting pregnant and putting out children. That was all I was important for.
What if I couldn’t have a son? What would happen to me? I was afraid. If I did not have a son he would abandon me. It is so hard when women are thought of only as something to sell when they are young, and later they become worthless goods. This is the definition of marriage that my family made evident to me.
Finally, I stayed with my destiny, alone. This is how my marriage began. It was very difficult and unbelievable. Now I can write my feelings of that time and what happened to me.
AWWP’s writing on child marriage is being shared with Breakthrough’s campaign, “Nation Against Early Marriage.”
Nasima — I loved getting to work with you on this and I want to thank you again and again for sharing your powerful, beautifully written story. It breaks my heart that you felt so alone during this time — and that you were “screaming in silence.” I hope that many people will read your words so you can know that we hear you now and you are telling us that forced marriage is a cruel destiny. Please keep writing about your life. We all need to hear what you have to say! All best wishes, Nancy
I don’t think I can overstate the power of this essay, Nasima. To hear this in your own words, to feel your feelings enter the bloodstream, the heart…to know that I won’t be forgetting any of your words anytime soon. Your resilience and grace is deeply moving. There are so many stunning lines here to quote (and they are not just lines–they are your life!) I will end up quoting the whole thing! I hope people all over the world read this. Let them know what it’s like for a full human being to pushed into marriage before she is ready. You have never been “goods”. You are a gift. And your love and wisdom shines through. Stacy
Nasima– your essay is simply stunning. You are a born storyteller. Many people can write down events, but you transported me into your world and it broke my heart. The eloquence and wisdom of your words is clearly the reflection of a remarkable woman. I am so happy you have found a way to be heard. Please keep writing. Becky
What an incredible story already. I’m so full of sadness for girls like you. I can hardly wait for the next part of your story. May God give you an inner courage and understanding that carries you through your life.
Dears, I am so pleased to hear your worlds to support me. Thank you so much for all. I will write more and more about my and afghan women life in Afghanistan.
Warm Regards, Nasima.