Bibi Gul, 50, lives in Herat province. She is illiterate. She wanted to study, but her family prevented her from going to school. Here is her story as told to Khadija.
Herat — My father told me that I should stay at home and help my mother with the housework. “You are a girl and girls should not go out of the home,” he said.
When I was just eight years old my father always was thinking about my marriage. He always pushed me to do the housework, saying, “You will get married soon and you should know all housework, or your husband’s family will say bad things about you. They will say that our daughter is lazy and she is not able to do housework.”
He said, “Instead of thinking about education try to be a good cook. That will be our pleasure, if you cook good.”
My father told me education is not important for girls. I heard his words, but in my heart I always thought about going to school. It is still like a dream in my heart today. That was the worst violence my own parents did with me. I am like a blind person.”
Bibi Gul was married at fourteen. The violence against her began with her mother-in-law who tortured her psychologically and physically.
Because Bibi Gul was so young she did become pregnant for five years. Her mother-in-law would shout, “You are a barren woman! We will get another wife for our son.” Bibi Gul cried and cried. “Many times I wanted to kill myself but I could not. I was so young I was even afraid of hurting myself.”
After five years she became pregnant and by then, her mother-in-law had died.
“She never saw her grandchild. My husband and I are both are uneducated. We understand each other now and after so many problems of our own we decided to send our children to school. We are blind; we do not want our children to be blind. I am not happy about what my parents did to me, but I want my children to be happy about us when they grow up.”
By Bibi Gul as told to Khadija
Dear Bibi Gul, thank you for sharing your story. Good for you and your husband for deciding to send your children to school. I hope you have the chance to learn to read. Maybe your children will help you. It is never too late.
This is a heartbreaking story of the violence you experienced at such a young age and beyond. However, I’m elated to know that you and your husband have learned from the mistakes of your parents and sent your children to school. You cannot read but you are not blind — you can clearly see what opportunities your children should have. By this simple act you are an example to others and you are bringing great change to your country — thank you!
Thank you Bibi Gul for sharing your story. There is sadness here but also a wonderful sense of hope for your children. They are very lucky to have you and your husband as loving and supportive parents. I hope these comments make it back to you. God bless you and your family.
I am so glad that you wrote this piece about Bibi Ghul because it inspired me, and it can inspire others around the world. I had not realized how limited the options for Afghani girls had been, but it is encouraging that Bibi Ghul is changing things one person at a time. Bibi’s story taught me about the traditional expectations of women in Afghani marriages. It seems inconceivable that her parents did not allow her to get an education just because she was a girl. Even though her parents were more worried about their reputation being besmirched if she could not do household chores than her happiness and fulfillment, Bibi Ghul never gave up. Bibi and her husband seem to treat each other as equals. Even though neither of them were educated, they are educating all their children. More importantly, care more about their children’s future than how it reflects on them. I love how you show that everybody – no matter their age or social class – can pave the way to a better society.