In spite of all the efforts to decrease gender violence, it is still being practiced widely almost everywhere in the world. Women’s activists and NGOs are working hard to empower women to obtain their rights in Afghanistan. Perhaps less attention is given to women who flee the country in hope of a better life, and then still face gender violence as refugees in another country. Here is one woman’s story.
Meet Pari, a widow who is the mother of three children. More than three decades ago when she was a child, Pari’s parents left Afghanistan for Iran. She grew up in Iran, married an Afghan man, and established her life. But when her husband died when she was in her thirties, to maintain the household she started working as a domestic for an Iranian family.
Her employer was aware of her poor living conditions and he proposed she have sex with him in return for more money. Pari refused. As a result she got into a conflict with him. Her employer—who she said was an influential mullah—attempted to rape her. She said she defended herself by beating him on the head.
The man was seriously injured and so Pari was sent to a detention center. As an Afghan, she had no rights to defend herself in Iran, but after ten months she was released. Soon after, she said she was kidnapped by the mullah’s men and taken to a home where she was raped and beaten by various men. Pari said that as a result of being hit on her head she almost lost her memory.
In 2012, Pari took her children and fled to Turkey to apply for asylum. Almost four years later, she is still waiting for her case to be finalized. Life continues to treat her unfairly.
With a lack of financial and legal support for refugees in Turkey, she copes with struggles every day. Her older son was smuggled to Europe; now she lives with her two younger children. Since she does not have legal permission to work in Turkey, she cannot cover basic living expenses. She gets leftover food from a restaurant and bread from a bakery.
Pari is a vulnerable woman. She receives no legal protection by international organizations.
She continues to face harassment and gender violations. Recently she rented a house in a cheap neighborhood but the owner of the house continuously harasses her, asking for extra money or demanding sex. She reported the abuser to the police and the police suggested she move. But she has no financial means. So the police told her to go to her home country—Afghanistan.
With tearful eyes, Pari wanders around thinking that if her country were secure enough to live in, her family might not have had to flee.
In spite of the obstacles, Pari fights back and struggles for survival. Her hopes for her children to have a better future keep her searching.
The importance of Pari’s story as a step in raising awareness about gender-based violence among women is that women should not stop asking for their rights. They should approach every possible institution: governmental, NGOs, and others, to ask for help. More importantly, women should learn to share their life stories; they should talk and not become passive victims. Women need to believe that sooner or later things will change.
Women from other parts of the world, in Pari’s case, Turkish women, could help her financially. They could teach women like Pari about their rights and access to legal protections in cases of violence. And other organizations could provide Pari and women like her with shelter and food to prevent further abuse.
Photo: Caroline Gluck/EC/ECHO