Life Stops for Nothing, part two

girl in small doorway

In part one, Rabia wrote of how she used to love visiting her grandma’s house, and how her grandmother helped a neighbor deliver her tenth baby, a little girl named Sultana.

Sultana was a quiet, yet very naughty and fun girl to be around. We used to go to the grassland behind my grandma’s house where I would make a drum out of a pot and beat it and she would dance to the music of my band. She was my gang member. I remember I had fought with my cousin so Sultana and I decided to teach her a lesson. We locked her in a spooky shrine across from the house all day long. We used to broom the shrine for every girl we disliked, because there was a saying that if you broom a shrine mentioning your enemy’s name, God will punish them.

Sultana had a miserable life, but she never complained or asked for anything. She had dealt with life enough to not care what it brought. It had been a few years since we had visited my grandma’s house because the way had become too risky by car.

But one afternoon I came home from school and, after changing my clothes, my mother placed a bolanee and some yogurt in front of me and told me the story of my friend, Sultana.

“How is she going to handle this?” she began.

“Who,” I asked?

“Oh, that little girl from our village, Sultana.”

“What has happened to her?”

My mom sighed and explained, “She is getting married to a man the age of her father. Thirty years older than her.”

Sultana was only ten years old. Back then it was beyond my understanding what had happened.

I couldn’t comprehend anything as I continued eating my meal. Sultana had now entered a completely different stage of her life at ten. Her wedding was held just a few days later. I was not there, but my cousins say she wore the traditional dress, her little body covered up with a big veil. Her best friend, who was the same age, did her makeup. Sultana sat in the corner sneaking looks from the big shawl, enjoying the music and the crowd in the room. She was happy to be a bride, unaware of what was happening to her.

She thought it was like the game we played where each of us would take a turn being the bride, and now it was her turn. My aunt who attended her wedding said, “We asked her where was she going, and she replied ‘I’m going to my uncle’s house’.” The brothers had received a large dowry for her; they sacrificed her for their own comfort.

A few months after the wedding, Sultana was diagnosed with severe anemia. You could have predicted what the little soul had suffered—the responsibility of a family at an age when mothers are still running after you with a glass of milk to ensure your health. At age ten, she was cooking for a family of fourteen, washing the clothes of big men with her tiny hands, and cooking on an open fire.

She had no choice; these are the rituals for a bride. There was nobody to make sure she ate, no mother to hug her when she felt lonely and dispirited, no one to check her fever.

As I am writing this my mom is telling me about another seven-year-old girl found dead in her house with all her viscera hanging out of her vagina on her wedding night; and another one who escaped her father-in-law’s torture and spent almost a week in a well. These stories disgust me.

Those moments of laughter and fun, Sultana’s little round face, her cracked bare feet, her cold, fissured hands are flashbacks in my mind. She died a year after her marriage, after suffering from pernicious anemia. But I don’t blame infection or bacteria or medicine. I blame the society. I blame the people. I blame this cruel stone-hearted world. Sultana was too weak to fight. She was too gentle to carry that load. The demons had sucked her blood.

I can’t express the kind of feelings rushing through my body as I stood astonished above her little tomb in a far off, deserted cemetery. Thousands of questions streamed in my blood and I had no answer. My hands were too short to reach her. My voice was too low to awake her.

That little friend had disappeared. She was no more, but the world had not stopped, the sky had not fallen, the sun had risen. Humans were likely struggling to keep it going. As they say, life stops for nothing and no one.

By Rabia J.


  1. “Sultana’s little round face, her cracked bare feet, her cold, fissured hands are flashbacks in my mind” Rabia –you’ve done a wonderful service by memorializing Sultana here. This is a great piece of writing. Susan P.

  2. this brought tears to my eyes… thank you, i won’t forget her story

  3. Beautifully and tenderly written. I will not forget Sultana. How can humans do such things to other humans. It makes no sense to me. Keep on writing! You have a voice.

    • Rabia j says:

      I will write for the women and their rights for as long as there is pen and paper on earth its my fortune to be able to do something for the women whose voices are unheard

    • Rabia j says:

      It truly is a heart wrenching story but we , afghan women, will fight. And thank you for reading

  4. Please Keep writing– we are listening and hearing what you say

  5. mamósblog says:

    I am utterly shocked and horrified to read ‘Life Stops for Nothing’ (both parts) – I pictured you and Sultana playing in the fields, drumming and dancing and then this picture turned into watching a young girl being brutally treated and abused – my tears flowed as I read . How do we change the traditions and beliefs of the men that do this to little girls and women (every day) – Rabia, the world needs more young women like you to use their voices to say STOP!

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, we do need young women like you to tell these powerful stories, and make the lives of these girls REAL to an uncomprehending public. i am horrified, even though I know it goes on all the time.
      But reading this way, I am horrified anew , and intend myself to make the story known to everyone.
      I am a therapist and use wiriting stories and doing poetry therapy in my work, because it is so healing and powerful. God bless you for memorializing Sultana in this way. No one reading it will every forget, and hopefully will be moved to action!

    • Rabia j says:

      I will say stop for as long as i can and no matter what it takes and i thank you from the depths of my hear for your inspiring feedback .

  6. siraz ibn malik says:

    As a human i am really hate child-marriage.May Allah guide all of us…. ameen

  7. Even though I know this kind of thing goes on all the time, I am horrified anew to be reminded of it, as you write it. I am a therapist and I use writing stories and poetry in my work, because it is so healing and powerful. i hope that your writing will ignite feelings of love and compassion in others and will motivate them to take action to stop this horrible injustice. God Bless you for memorializing Sultana in this way, because it certainly makes her very real and symbolic of the terrorism with which women and girls often live. This is a human rights violation of the most funamental kind,.

  8. Rabia j says:

    I am glad to hear that this article will help you in your therapeutic work and i also hope that this article will ignite the passion to change the situation in hearts and minds of those who read it and i thank you for taking some minutes out of your precious time and for the very inspiring feed back.

  9. Nancy Antle says:

    Rabia — This second part to the story is a heartbreakingly beautiful tribute to your dear friend, Sultana. I cannot imagine what horrors she experienced and how abandoned and forgotten she must have felt. But you have given her a voice from the grave and written strong words about who is at fault here — and that it must stop. I pray that forced marriage will end as more and more people in your country realize what an atrocity it is. Thank you for writing such a powerful, poignant piece. Nancy

  10. Tina S. says:

    It continually shocks me the suffering that human beings will will torture one another with. As if there wasn’t enough without our adding to it. And yet, I am am humbled to read your words which define what being a human being will withstand and tenaciously survive. Yes the sun will rise, and you and women like you will remember, carry on, and forge forward. I hope one day for real and lasting change, in that the society in which you live recognizes the value that women have and can contribute, is actualized. May your words continue to be the rallying cry! Don’t ever stop writing… Tina

  11. Mustafa says:

    It was so impressive, i couldn’t stop reading part two. Thumbs Up!

  12. Elaha qarar says:

    Again u made me cry like ur last story, very well written.
    I wish we could stop all this, but we will keep praying n hope that allah help them cause he can do anything.

  13. Whitney says:

    I just had my high school class read your story. Absolutely beautiful. What power your words have!

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