It was hard, but I watched the video of Rukhshana being stoned by the stone-hearted men. This is the first time I dared to watch such a heartbreaking video. I cried as I saw how defenseless and fragile she was, trying to protect herself against the storm of ignorance and the stones thrown by the inhuman men.
I was also sad reading the news about how Rukhshana was forced by her father to marry a very old man. I condemn her father for that. He did not value his daughter’s life, did not hear her voice, and did not understand her feelings. He sold his daughter for money, like a car or a house, to an old man. The bigger the payment, the easier it was for him to make the deal.
Women in Afghanistan have no hope of being defended by their own families against the brutal gender discriminatory customs of their tribes. Rukhshana’s father had no choice but to accept his daughter’s sentence but he is not innocent. He played an indirect but strong role in her death. If he had not sold her to a man she objected to, she would be alive.
In Afghanistan even the family—the institution that is supposed to be one’s center of peace and support on earth—discriminates against women and fails to protect them. How can we expect strangers to feel empathy for us when we abandon our own loved ones?
I cannot imagine the difficulties the beautiful Rukhshana had to go through when she was forced to marry a man 35 years older. Her life was so difficult that she decided it was worth the risk to escape, but then the community members and her ex-husband forced her to return. To resolve the dispute between Rukhshana’s ex-husband and her lover, the young man’s sister then was reportedly forced to marry Rukhshana’s ex-husband. So that dispute was resolved again at the expense of a girl’s life. Another innocent girl was victimized. How can anyone accept this as just?
These events show how worthless and meaningless a woman’s life and feelings are to those men. But the story does not end here. When Rukhshana was returned to her family there were many marriage proposals made. Her father forced her to marry a second time. She attempted to escape again, but this time she faced the informal religious trial which ended in her death by stoning. The mullah who judged Rukhshana and ordered the stoning was the brother of one of the men whose marriage proposal Rukhshana had rejected. How fair could this trial have been?
It deeply upsets me that Rukhshana’s beauty put her in danger. She became a victim of her beauty when she rejected the marriage proposals from the old men. I pity those men who are so selfish they will ruin a beautiful young girl’s life—first they kill her dreams and her soul, then they stone her to death.
Rukhshana’s story is a painful example of women living under a patriarchal society where being a female means only suffering. This is a society where government institutions are weak, untrustworthy, and unaccountable and where the informal institutions rely on unfair and incorrect traditional and religious values. It will not end until there is a change in the mindset of the people, until civil society and human rights organizations get stronger, and until the government is held to account. Government must monitor and punish the informal institutions and individuals who break the rule of law and violate human dignity.
I pray for the beautiful Rukhshana to rest in peace. I want all the Afghan women to remain strong, resilient, and responsible. We can be Rukhshana’s voice by fighting against the injustice of her death.
By Fatima G.