Six months ago my younger brother decided that he would no longer call me sister because I was not obeying him and because I did not do what he wanted. I said to myself, “Ok, I won’t call him brother either because he has never been nice to me.” He was trying to control me, so he said, “I will imagine that I have never had a sister.”
For a long time this continued and we did not say hello when we met. In the past, I would hug him and be good to him because I loved him. I wanted him to improve himself and go to school, but he saw my improvement plans as a negative thing. He disapproved of everything—my traveling, my education, my clothing, and my friends. So he disowned me.
But at least he left me alone until that all changed one day recently. It was breakfast time and the family was together watching TV and talking and joking. I whispered something, but my brother did not like it. He became mad and called me a “bad girl,” which is like being called a prostitute in Afghanistan. When he said that, I looked back at him and everyone else looked at the two of us.
He jumped up and started hitting me. I was surprised because for a long time all his anger at me had been verbal, but this time it got physical. I tried to defend myself, but he is strong. I remembered this because he had beaten me once before, a long time ago. Everyone else looked scared. I knew I had to defend myself on my own or be killed by his punching and kicking so I hit him with the egg pan. The rest of the family saw how bad it was getting and they came to defend me until he stopped hitting me.
I was shocked. I was home enjoying time with my family, and I was beaten. Why? Because I don’t stay home like other girls, cooking and serving men. I am out studying and working, and having my own life, which makes my brother jealous. He doesn’t like it when I take photos with my male friends or talk to them on the phone. He hates it if I communicate with them on social media and he implies that I am a bad girl because of those things.
If he were a good brother I would listen to his concerns and even orders that I didn’t like. But why should I accept violence? Why should I accept orders from a man who has done nothing for me but always says bad things about me and make me sad and wants me to fail in reaching my dreams.
I went to another room and locked the door. But he followed me and started the fight again until the rest of my family came to stop it. They were very angry with me but no one beat my brother who started the fight. He left and went out to have fun.
The mental pain is as bad as the physical pain. I couldn’t even cry. I knew I needed to be strong even though I just wanted to throw myself out the second floor window and say goodbye to life with violence. I remembered my sister on the other side of the door who wanted to hug me and I remembered my dreams for a peaceful and just Afghanistan where children and women have the same rights as every man—as human beings, not as second class citizens.
I wanted to kill myself. But I didn’t because I know that I need to help other women, girls, and children by sharing my story.
I am an advocate for children’s rights and women’s rights, but now even I am beaten at home and so are my younger brother and sister. As I write this piece I am crying, but also looking for a way to stop this violence and save all of our lives. People like my brother should be corrected and punished. I will try my best not to give up so I can fight against this violence and make certain the next generation of women and children have a life free of violence.
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kenny Holsto