I wasn’t going to publish the names…there were so many. Then I decide that they deserved to be remembered, indeed honored. Each of then was young, at the beginning of this sojourn. Careers and school waiting for each of them. The name I won’t say is the perpetrators because I don’t want to encourage those unstable minds who commit crimes so history will remember them. I am sorry that their families and friends are experiencing this overwhelming grief and sorrow. Though a widow, I can only express a tiny bit of the hell you must be suffering. I am sorry.
For those on the fence about LGBT members of society, each of these people were in school or working. Let us remember the injured also. There is a large list of people who need your healing prayers. Their doctors need prayers for steady hands, wise decisions, and an angel on their shoulder. It will take the loving hearts of many people to get the injured up and about. They may face some discrimination. Pray that people will look at them and just see an injured human being. For their families and friends, I pray for you that you will have the strength to give them all the care they will need. May people remember that you will need care also. May you be able, in time, to forgive the shooter and the NRA.
The link above will take you to a video that will discuss the girls still missing. If you are not aware, approximately two years ago, a terrorist group called Boko Haram, took girls from their schools. Why girls? Because this terrorist group does not want females to be educated. They want them as wives for their soldiers and they want to sell them into slavery or human trafficking. Some girls were able to escape but the majority are under the watchful eye of Boko Haram.
On Congresswoman Fredericka Wilson’s website a clock counted down the days, hours, seconds and minutes since terrorists tore through the village of Chibok, Nigeria and ripped 200 schoolgirls from their community in a violent rampage that shocked the world.
Thursday marked two years to the day. And, just as the social media hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, galvanized a global community — including First Lady Michelle Obama — to raise their voices in a collective outcry against such brutality, Wilson, a Florida Democrat is hoping to harness the power of social media to address “the security and humanitarian crisis in the region.” She is hosting a ‘Twitterstorm” on Thursday to refocus attention on the horrors the terrorist group has continued to inflict on West Africa and the plight of the missing schoolgirls.
“Social media is a powerful tool. It has the ability to reach millions of people,” Wilson told NBC News. “After we began the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, the world started to take notice.”
Wilson, a former teacher and school principal, plans to Tweet until every girl is found. And she urges everyone to “Tweet prayers, pictures of remembrance, blessings for the families and words of consolation” to commemorate the anniversary for the girls’ abduction.
Women in Congress have been especially vocal on behalf of the missing girls.
Just before Mother’s Day in 2014, every female lawmaker in Congress signed letters to President Barack Obama urging his administration to push the U.N. Security Council to add Boko Haram to an al Qaeda Sanctions List. The list was aimed at requiring members to freeze the assets of anyone affiliated with Boko Haram and prevent them from crossing their borders.
The U.N. Security Council added Boko Haram to the list later that month. This week the State Department reiterated its support for the safe return of all those taken by Boko Haram, a terrorist organization with ties to ISIS, which has kidnapped and killed thousands of people in Nigerian territories and neighboring countries for more than seven years. The Obama administration has offered support through intelligence gathering, financial assistance and psychological aid to Nigeria in its efforts to push back against the terrorist group and help victims recover.
“Unfortunately there have been thousands of people kidnapped in Nigeria,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said on Thursday adding that the Nigerian government is ultimately responsible for the effort to find the girls. Organizations, such as Amnesty International, say more could be done.
“We have tried to push the Obama administration to press for genuine, transparent reform within the Nigerian military when it considers providing security assistance and we have also worked with other NGOs and members of congress to make sure that the situation is not brushed (aside) and forgotten,” Adotei Akwei, managing director of government relations at Amnesty International USA told NBC News.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees recently announced that over the last few months more than 135,000 people from Cameroon, Chad and Niger have fled to escape Boko Haram.
More than 2.5 million have been forced from their homes.
One million children have been forced from school causing 2,000 schools to close.
As many as 20,000 people have been killed, 2,000 of which were killed in January’s massacre in the city of Baga.
This week relatives of some of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls gathered in Abuja to watch a recently released proof-of-life video that appeared to show 15 of the students. The bittersweet moment was made all the more so, parents told members of the media, because they have not been reunited with their children.
In the U.S., a chorus of congressional women have continued to raise their voices against Boko Haram’s atrocities.
Over the past two years, female lawmakers and their male counterparts have taken to the floor to speak about the kidnapping and remind those listening of the perils of the rise of terrorist group. Wilson is hoping that lawmakers will make one-minute speeches each week and help support appropriations to help the female victims of Boko Haram.
Many of the women in Congress have also worn red on Wednesdays to remind the world that the girls are still missing.
And several of the lawmakers, including Wilson, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Florida and were joined by Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas in meeting with some of the Chibok schoolgirls who escaped.
About 50 girls managed to escape soon after they were abducted. More than 200 remain missing.
Related: Boko Haram’s Use of Child ‘Suicide’ Bombers Skyrocketed Last Year: U.N.
The tales of the survivors of Boko Haram attacks are chilling.
“Boko Haram captured a village in Northern Nigera and killed the mother and father of a young boy and girl. Later, the insurgents debated on whether or not to kill the boy. After speculating that the young boy would follow in his father’s footsteps and become a Christian pastor, the insurgents decided to kill the boy,” Wilson said. “
The little girl was tied on top of the bodies of her family and left for dead. She was rescued three days later.
Wilson says she will continue to press the United States and Nigerian governments to work together to help end these atrocities.
Kenyan activists shout slogans during a demonstration to protest against kidnapping of Nigerian school girls by Nigeria’s Islamist militant group Boko Haram, in Nairobi, Kenya, on May 15. DAI KUROKAWA / EPA file Though the Nigerian government claims it has nearly defeated Boko Haram attacks continue — especially on vulnerable communities.
“It represents the world’s failure to stand up to terrorism and stand for our civilization,” said Emmanuel Ogebe, an international human rights lawyer that works with the escaped schoolgirls. Combat operations and intelligence efforts must continue to pressure these groups, said Malcolm Nance, executive director of Terror Asymmetrics Project on Strategy, Tactics and Radical Ideologies, a think tank in Hudson, New York.
Once captured, the women are exploited sexually and face mental abuse. There have also been reports that some of the kidnapped women and girls have been used in suicide attacks.
“These women are victims of gang rape and humiliation, then told that they can only redeem themselves in god’s eyes through “martyrdom” via suicide bombing,” Nance said.
Nance said the mass abductions in Chibok and other places in the region are a critical recruiting strategy to attract young men. “(Boko Haram) promises women and children to their fighters in exchange for their willingness to attack and mass murder their own people,” Nance said.
In his work at the Education Must Continue Initiative, a organization that works to help victimized children in northeastern Nigeria, Ogebe has witnessed depression and Stockholm Syndrome among the young victims.
“Some women abused by terrorists in the faux marriages have shown sympathy towards them after their rescue by the (Nigerian) army,” he said.
At one relief camp, the rescued women were unfriendly to relief teams that brought them supplies. The military found out they were still in contact with their captors and were moved to an undisclosed location, Ogebe said.
Still, there are glimmers of progress.
Ogebe said his organization helped a teen named Dela, one of the recovered Chibok schoolgirls, begin college. After a series of delays from funding to the snow blizzard this past winter, she will continue the education she was stolen from after 660 days in captivity, he said.
Stories like that reinforce for Wilson why it’s important to remember what happened.
“We must never forget what happened to the girls along with Boko Haram’s other victims,” she said.
2 Years After #BringBackOurGirls, Boko Haram Is Still Attacking Schools
Since 2009, Boko Haram has destroyed over 900 schools and forced at least 1,500 to close.
In this photo taken Monday, Dec. 7, 2015, children displaced by Boko Haram during an attack on their villages receive lectures in a camp in Maiduguri, Nigeria. Attacks by Islamic extremist group Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria and neighboring countries have forced more than 1 million children out of school, heightening the risk they will be abused, abducted or recruited by armed groups, the United Nations children’s agency said Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/ Sunday Alamba)
Today marks two years since Boko Haram abducted more than 270 girls from a school in northeast Nigeria. Since then, millions more children have been affected by the conflict — most notably by being kept out of school.
Boko Haram’s violence has caused nearly one million children in Northeast Nigeria alone to have little or no access to education, according to a new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report. Since 2009, the militant group has been attacking schools, teachers and students, terrorizing the local education system.
“We didn’t know what was going on, we just felt the blast,” said Hassan, a 14-year-old boy who was injured in a suicide attack on his school, in a video from HRW. “I tried to stand up and fell because my leg was no more.”
Hassan’s legs were injured when a Boko Haram suicide bomber blew himself up during his school assembly, according to the video. The young boy was unable to attend school for more than a year, because he didn’t have a wheelchair.
Boko Haram’s attacks have destroyed more than 900 schools and forced at least 1,500 more to close since 2009, according to the HRW report. The attacks are aimed at what the militants call “Western” education, or non-Quranic schools.
More than 600 teachers have been killed and another 19,000 forced to flee. The group has abducted more than 2,000 people, including many students.
“In its brutal crusade against western-style education, Boko Haram is robbing an entire generation of children in northeast Nigeria of their education,” said Mausi Segun, a Nigeria researcher in an HRW article. “The government should urgently provide appropriate schooling for all children affected by the conflict.”
The militants aren’t the only ones placing schools at risk: Nigerian government security forces who are fighting them have also used schools for military purposes, according to HRW, placing the institutions at heightened risk of attack.
“It is up to both sides to immediately stop the attacks on education,” Segun said in the HRW article, “and end the cycle of poverty and underachievement to which far too many children in the region are being sentenced.”
Most people remember the abduction of over 270 schoolgirls from Chibok, Nigeria on April 14, 2014, after which people worldwide took to Twitter demanding their return with #BringBackOurGirls.
What many don’t know is that since then, at least 1.3 million children, have been displaced by Boko Haram’s violence across four countries, according to Unicef. It is one of the fastest growing displacement crises in Africa.
In order to address the humanitarian crisis, Unicef has scaled up its operations in the region, but due to insufficient funding and difficult access from insecurity,thousands of children have still not been able to receive the assistance they need.
“The challenge we face is to keep children safe without interrupting their schooling,” said Manuel Fontaine, a Unicef director, in a statement in December. “Schools have been targets of attack, so children are scared to go back to the classroom; yet the longer they stay out of school, the greater the risks of being abused, abducted and recruited by armed groups.”
A young man demonstrates for the return of the girls. We must all use our voices. These young women and girls are voiceless!
Girls kidnapped from their school are now suffering from forced marriages, rape and unwanted pregnancy. And let us not forget some of them are being human trafficked.
Pictures of the original girls who were stolen from their school. Please notice how young many of them are.
Nigerian families continue to grieve and demand that their daughters be returned. The problem is that the ones that are impregnated when they return are ostracised.
When I was a little girl of 9 years old, my Grandpa gave me a picture book called The Camps, showing scenes from the Holocaust and the concentration camps. When I asked him why he gave me this book of black and white photographs, he told me the story of the Holocaust, and about the millions of people — mostly Jews, but also Poles, political prisoners, Gypsies and other “undesirables” from as far away as Brazil and America — who had been taken from their homes, stripped of all their possessions, and thrown into camps where, over the course of World War II, the Nazis killed over 6 Million people.
It didn’t matter whether they were rich or poor, or if they were a doctor or a shoeshine boy; if they were a mother or a grandmother, the Nazis herded them into train cars and took them to one of the 300 camps that the allies found when they liberated Germany from Nazi rule in 1945.
Grandpa told me that it was imperative that we always remember what Hitler and his followers had done, and what the German people let themselves be talked into, because if we ever forgot, it could happen again.
I’ve always remembered it, and I have visited more than one Holocaust museum here in the United States.
It’s not a fun day trip, like going to an art museum or a museum of natural history, but it’s important. I can always hear Grandpa telling me “we must remember, so it cannot happen again”
Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is important that we not allow ourselves to be pushed into the herd; that we think for ourselves; that we analyze what politicians are saying and that we vote wisely — and that we do actually vote.
The allies took German people to the camps which the Allies had liberated, because it was the only way to prove to these German people that these camps actually existed, and that thousands were gassed to death in communal “showers” and thrown into mass graves, or that people were put into ovens like loaves of bread dough. There are still those who do not believe it happened, but we have proof.
In 1985, 40 years after Allied Forces marched into Germany and liberated the Camps, Frontline ran a show about what the soldiers saw and found when they arrived.
But there’s a longer piece, edited and filmed in part by Alfred Hitchcock, which you can watch, below, which shows the horrors that were found. Horrors which we can never forget, or else we will allow them again. Don’t turn away from the horror. It is real and it was genocide. Just like the other countries which have been devastated by genocide. We must not allow politicians to tell us what to think or to do. We must be strong enough to stand up and fight those who lack human compassion and the ability to love others. Intolerance must not be abided in any country. To the six million people who were imprisoned, beaten, starved, experimented on, I can only whisper,” Rest in Peace.”
According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness among families. If a couple has a violent argument in the home, it is usually the woman and children who flee. They flee with little but what is on their backs. This is another reason why Domestic Violence Shelters are so important. They can place the women and children into temporary housing. Most can then also help them to find housing for her and the children. In my long experience I have never known a man to leave unless he is the victim.
Survivors of domestic violence face higher rates of depression, sleep disturbances, anxiety, flashbacks (PTSD) and other mental disturbances. Many are too ashamed of being beaten to go to a doctor or mental health worker and ask for help.
Stop Family Violence
Domestic Violence contributes to poor health in survivors. Chronic conditions such as heart disease, gastrointestinal disorders can become more serious due to repeated battering. Fear and anger build up in the victim and the stress can lead to other health issues.
Among women brought to an Emergency Room after being beaten, were socially isolated, and had fewer social and financial resources than women who were not abused. Part of the emotional abuse is social isolation. The victim is cut off from friends, family, therapists, neighbors because the abuser needs to have total control over the victim. Abusers don’t want women to hear there is a place to go and get help. i often would put the hotline number on a piece of paper and pass it to the victim without being seen. Each city has a hotline number and you can help save a life by getting the number and gently putting it into a woman’s hand.
Without help, girls who witness domestic violence are more vulnerable to abuse when they are teens and young adults. Without help, boys who witness domestic violence, are far more likely to become abusers of their partners and/or children as adults. This continues the cycle of violence into later generations.
There is Never a Reason to Hit Another Human Being
Words by Katharine Lee Bates,
Melody by Samuel Ward
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!
O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!
O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
O beautiful for halcyon skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the enameled plain!
God shed his grace on thee
Till souls wax fair as earth and air
And music-hearted sea!
O beautiful for pilgrims feet,
Whose stem impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
God shed his grace on thee
Till paths be wrought through
wilds of thought
By pilgrim foot and knee!
O beautiful for glory-tale
Of liberating strife
When once and twice,
for man’s avail
Men lavished precious life!
God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain
The banner of the free!
O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
God shed his grace on thee
Till nobler men keep once again
Thy whiter jubilee!
Women’s shelters are one of the most provocative legacies of the Western presence in Afghanistan.
By ALISSA J. RUBINMARCH 2, 2015
KABUL, Afghanistan — Faheema stood trembling in the courtyard of the large house, steeling herself for the meeting with her family.
She took a deep breath and ran inside, her black abaya swirling around her, and fell to the floor at her uncle’s feet, hugging his knees, her face pressed against him, her shoulders heaving.
The reproaches came immediately. “How could you do this?” her uncle said. “You were always so sweet to everyone. How could you have done this?”
What Faheema, 21, had done was to run away from her home in eastern Afghanistan with the man she loved. She left behind her large family and the man that her family had promised her to. Although her uncle’s words at first seemed kind, his tone had a dangerous edge: Faheema had to come home.
For a young woman from an Afghan village to go home after running away with a man is tantamount to crossing a busy street blindfolded: There is a strong likelihood that she will be killed for bringing shame on her family.
aheema, who like many Afghans uses a single name, was one of the lucky ones: She had made it to an emergency women’s shelter, one of about 20 that over the last 10 years have protected several thousand women across Afghanistan from abuse or death at the hands of their relatives.
These shelters, almost entirely funded by Western donors, are one of the most successful — and provocative — legacies of the Western presence in Afghanistan, demonstrating that women need protection from their families and can make their own choices. And allowing women to decide for themselves raises the prospect that men might not control the order of things, as they have for centuries. This is a revolutionary idea in Afghanistan — every bit as alien as Western democracy and far more transgressive.
As the shelters have grown, so has the opposition of powerful conservative men who see them as Western assaults on Afghan culture. “Here, if someone tries to leave the family, she is breaking the order of the family and it’s against the Islamic laws and it’s considered a disgrace,” said Habibullah Hasham, the imam of the Nabi mosque in western Kabul and a member of a group of influential senior clerics. “What she has done is rebelling.”
The opposition comes not only from conservative imams, but also from within the Afghan government itself. Lawmakers came very close in 2011 to barring the shelters altogether and in 2013 nearly gutted a law barring violence against women. They yielded only after last-minute pressure from the European Union and the United States.
Now, as the Western presence in Afghanistan dwindles, this clash between Western and Afghan ideas of the place of women means many of the gains women made after the 2001 invasion are at risk.
Although the Taliban’s harsh restrictions on women alienated many Afghans and helped rally foreign support for the war, the idea that women must submit to men remains widely held.
“A lot has changed since 2001, but most people still have conservative, traditional views of women,” said Manizha Naderi, who runs Women for Afghan Women, which operates shelters or other programs in 13 provinces.
That makes the fragile network of safe houses and the women who staff them even more vulnerable to restrictive legislation and attacks by local strongmen. The shelters, like so much of the Western project to coax change in Afghanistan, are emblems of a society in transition.
While the shelters have brought freedom to many women, others are stranded, safe for a time from their families but unable to leave because neither their families nor society accepts them.
Ms. Naderi estimates that about 15 percent of the women in her shelters cannot leave — ever. For these abused women, the longer they live suspended between two worlds, the less the shelter comes to feel like a haven and the more like a jail.
A Frightening Example
Above all, Faheema wanted to avoid the fate of Amina, an 18-year-old who ran away from her family in rural Baghlan Province in the summer of 2013 and whose case became widely known. She fled when her family told her she would be marrying an older man.
Amina made it to the provincial capital and was picked up by the Afghan Intelligence Service. Unlike many runaways, who are seen as fallen women and are prey to being molested by the police, she was not abused. Instead, she was brought to the women’s ministry office, which exists in every provincial capital in Afghanistan.
The women’s ministry sent her to the only shelter in the province. But after one or two nights, her family arrived. They promised not to harm Amina if she returned home with them, repeating that pledge on a videotape after meeting with the head of the provincial women’s ministry office, Khadija Yaqeen. The girl then climbed into a taxi with her family.
Amina never made it home. Nine men accosted the vehicle on a deserted stretch of road not far from her home, pulled her out and shot her, according to her family. No one else was harmed, they later told the ministry.
Women’s advocates and the police doubted the story. Why would armed men take just one young girl out of a car and shoot her? Why wouldn’t the family call for revenge?
The answer pointed to something far more sinister than a random holdup. In much of Afghanistan, a runaway is a tainted woman, who cannot be married off.
“This is the perception: Once she leaves the family, she’s in the hands of others, and they can do whatever they want with her — sexually abuse her — because she has left the family circle,” said Mr. Hasham, the imam in Kabul. By tribal custom, which is particularly strong in rural areas, a so-called honor killing is the only way to eradicate the shame.
The Baghlan provincial police chief, Amer Khail, believes Amina’s brother was involved in her killing, but said there were conflicting reports.
The women’s ministry office did not press for arrests. Amina’s short life and death drifted into sketchier and sketchier memory, with everyone involved claiming they had done the right thing.
Ms. Yaqeen of the women’s ministry said she had to let Amina go because she asked to leave with her family.
“Nobody had beaten her,” she said, “so I had no excuse to keep her.”
Ms. Yaqeen admits she was called by a member of the provincial council. She said the council member did no more than urge her to talk to the family, who had come to the provincial capital to get their daughter back. Provincial council members tend to be deferential to the desires of powerful local families, who would be eager to cleanse the family honor.
But Ms. Yaqeen said Amina made the choice herself.
It seems likely that a young girl, frightened and among strangers and faced by her angry family, would try to appease them because she could hardly believe that her family would be willing to kill her.
Women’s advocates in Baghlan have little question that this was an honor killing. “She should have been kept in the shelter for much longer,” said Homaira Mohammedi, the acting head of the Baghlan shelter at the time, who says that she was away the weekend that Amina came in.
“We did everything according to the rules and regulations,” Ms. Yaqeen insisted. “This is a problem of the society.”
A Family Confrontation
Faheema was sure that her family would not spare her if she left the shelter and went home.
“I had a problem with my father,” she said. “He engaged me to my uncle’s son, and I wasn’t happy to marry him, so I married another man.”
Her father told her he had bought a gun. “‘Wherever I see you both, I will kill you,’” he said before she ran away.
The desperation of her family to have her come home suggested that her view was correct. They were willing to agree to almost anything to pry her away from the safety of the shelter. A younger girl, or a weaker one, might have given in. But one of the most striking characteristics of many of the women who make it to a shelter is that, like Faheema, they have a sad but cleareyed understanding that they are in danger from their own families. This is often the first step toward being able to save themselves.
Unlike the Baghlan women’s ministry, where Amina had just one meeting with her family before she was given back to them, Women for Afghan Women requires repeated sessions between the young woman, her family and a mediator before she can go home. . The average number of meetings is about eight, said Nuria Kohistan, who mediated Faheema’s case. If the staff is not satisfied that the young woman will be safe, they will keep her as long as necessary.
Faheema’s third session with her family was a few days after the first and involved her mother, a younger sister, a younger brother and the brother of her spurned fiancé, who had been at the previous meeting.
The 45-minute session was filled with tears and screaming and bordered on physical violence — several times Faheema’s mother grabbed her daughter’s arm and held it in an iron grip as if to drag her from the mediation room, through the door and out the gate. A tall, thin woman with a frightening strength, she seemed to hold Faheema in her sway far more than the men in the family.
As if to protect herself, Faheema entered the room with a veil covering her whole face.
First her mother said to the mediator: “My daughter wants to go with us. Her father is now in the hospital.”
She turned to Faheema and said, “We will get you divorced from that guy,” referring to the man Faheema ran away with. Her fiancé’s brother and her mother said they would support her marrying someone else.
Ms. Kohistan, the mediator, said in an aside, “They’re saying these things, but as soon as they get custody of her, they will kill her.”
Heaping on the guilt and reminding Faheema of her shame, her mother said, “We have two houses in Ghazni, but we will sell them, because we can’t live in Ghazni anymore.”
The mediator pleaded: “Please talk about this in a way that this problem could be solved.”
Faheema put her head in her hands. Her 3-year-old brother knelt on the floor with his head under his mother’s long skirt as if he were trying to block out the sound of the warring grown-ups.
As it became clear that the shelter was not going to turn Faheema over to her family, her mother tried offering the mediator a bribe. “Please help us, and we will give you a gift,” she said, her voice pleading, tears in her eyes. Then she turned, almost spitting, to Faheema.
“You know your father, you know the character of your father,” she said. Gripping Faheema, she dragged her up from the chair. “He will kill me. You can come to my grave tomorrow.”
Finally, Faheema summoned her courage. “Why don’t you understand?” she said. “I already got married.”
And then she appeared to resign herself to the future. “This thing I did, I did. I cannot go with you, even if I lose everyone in my family,” she said and added, half speaking to them and half to the mediator, “I cannot go back home, because they will kill me.”
She pried her arm away from her mother’s grip and ran into the main building’s basement rooms. There, her mother could not reach her — she was kept out, and Faheema locked in, by a heavy metal gate. Her shoulders heaving, Faheema sank to her knees and wept hopelessly.
Never Going Home
The women in the long-term shelter try to cheat sleep by huddling together in the dark, their voices a way to ward off nightmares. The torments they endured at the hands of their families are written on their bodies. Knife scars traverse their faces and necks. Beatings with chains mark their backs. Some limp from broken bones that were never properly set. Several have faces eroded by acid, a favorite weapon here.
Daily life is an endless effort to escape the haunted precincts of memory; images of pummeling hands, the thumping sound of wood hitting their legs, of their bodies falling to the floor, the taste of blood in their mouths.
There are 26 women in the long-term shelter run by Women for Afghan Women in Kabul. If Faheema’s family continued its threats, this shelter would become her home.
That these women are still standing, and that some are trying to piece together complete lives, is a cause for wonder and a testament to their strength. In the safety of the halfway house, the women offer a glimpse into the worlds they have fled: muddy courtyards strung with laundry; screaming children and squawking chickens; cramped rooms for women and often not enough food. Women in Afghanistan are the last to eat, the last to bed and the first to rise.
Gul Meena, 16, survived a brutal attack by her brother after she fled an older husband, who had beaten her, and ran away with another man. She had been just 8 or 9 in her home in Kunar Province on the Pakistan border when a man in the next village offered money to her unemployed father for her.
In her innocence, she was thrilled to be given a white dress and makeup for the wedding ceremony. “I was thinking, this is the future, my husband would be buying me new clothes every day,” she said. In the car on the bumpy ride to her new home she remembers addressing her new husband as “uncle.”
“Uncle, please take care of me. I’m afraid I will fall,” she said as she bounced on his knee in the car.
From the moment she arrived in his house, she was a servant. The only grace was that he was not allowed to have sex with her before she had her first period. Two years after they wed, the moment came and he forced himself on her. “I was like a thing and they sold me,” she said. “He was beating me with everything near to him. With his glasses, with his mobile phone, with wood, with stones, and with his hands.”
Lonely and bewildered, she tried at least twice to return to her father’s house, but the family sent her back to her husband and finally she went to a neighbor’s home. The husband of the family ran away with her to Nangarhar Province in eastern Afghanistan.
When her brother caught up with them, he slit the man’s throat and slashed Gul Meena 15 times with an ax, nearly blinding her and leaving her for dead. When she woke up in the hospital, she looked in the mirror. “I was very damaged,” she said. “Before, I was beautiful and young.”
Although she does not see herself that way, she is still a stunning young woman. She has never gone to school but speaks with a simple eloquence. Now she fears that she is ugly and no one will marry her. “Men are always interested in the beauty of a woman,” she said. “They are never interested in the heart.”
In the long-term shelter, most women feel a deep relief. No one is beaten. There is enough food. Chores are shared and, above all, there are choices: Some girls decide to go to school and try to make up for the years they were kept as virtual slaves. Others go to classes at beauty school in the hope of learning a skill that they will be able to use. One has a job as a house cleaner, and another is a skilled tailor and makes clothes while caring for her 6-year-old daughter.
“We try to find a solution,” Ms. Naderi said, but she admitted there were few options in Afghanistan. It is exceedingly rare for a woman to live alone here, and so the staff tries to help women recreate families when their own have shunned them. “Sometimes we can find husbands,” she said. “We’ve married maybe 10 or 11, but it’s difficult.”
While traditional attitudes remain deeply ingrained, women’s advocates do see changes. “Now women are finding a voice,” said Soraya Sobrang, a member of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission. “And also they want to have some rights and have some decision-making. If you want to marry my daughter, you have to ask me as well. The men think the women want to deprive them of rights. This touches their pride. And this creates violence in the family.”
The battle between tradition and a fragile new sense of women’s rights continues. A government committee investigated the shelters after a television program accused them of forcing battered women into prostitution. The committee found that most of the shelters were well run.
The committee members recognized that most of the women were at risk of beatings or death if the shelters were closed or their capacities diminished, but no one wanted to defend the shelters publicly. The outcome relieved the women who ran the shelters and Western aid organizations: The government would not close the safe houses but, at the same time, there was little public support for spending money from the Afghan budget on them.
However, Ms. Sobrang said: “The international community has promised to continue support.” Such funding is essential if the shelters are to survive. Ms. Naderi relies on generous funding from the United States government, which accounts for close to 90 percent of her budget. The balance is raised from private, mostly foreign donors.
The women inside the halfway house understand the risks they would face if they had to leave. “I cannot go anywhere alone,” said Mariam, 22 who escaped an abusive Taliban husband and fled to the shelter. “Everybody likes to have their freedom, but I cannot have mine.”
In the end, Faheema was able to leave the shelter, with the help of a lawyer provided by Women for Afghan Women. After four or five months, a court recognized her marriage to her husband, Ajmal, and the attorney general ordered her to live with him in Kabul.
But it is not exactly a happy ending.
Although they are in love, they live in terror of being cornered by a member of Faheema’s family and being beaten or killed. They live in poverty because Ajmal had to shutter his shop in their hometown, Ghazni, and cannot go there for fear of being killed. He has no money to start a new business.
A thin young man who wears Western clothes and, in keeping with more modern Afghan ways, does not have a beard, Ajmal comes across as serious and anxious.
“We live in fear and in hiding,” he said. Three times a day, when he goes out to buy a long loaf of Afghan bread, he finds himself looking around nervously to see if any of Faheema’s family is lying in wait for him.
He worries all the time about his widowed mother and two sisters, who still live in Ghazni. When he had his small cosmetics shop there, he contributed to supporting the family. But now, only his widowed mother’s meager income as a tailor helps feed the family.
None of this has weakened the couple’s resolve to be together, but it weighs on them because in Afghanistan, to not be able to go home is to be an outcast, almost an orphan.
Faheema tried to make peace between their two families and braved a phone call with her angry father to beg him to meet with elders from Ajmal’s clan. But her father refused to see them and said the only thing that would satisfy him is if they gave him a daughter to marry off to his son or nephew in exchange for Ajmal’s taking Faheema.
Despite the hardship, Faheema hopes her sisters and cousins will have the courage to demand that their families ask permission before making plans to marry them off. She wishes that her father had respected her enough to ask her. “My message to my father is that he should ask his children first before making any decision for their lives,” she said, wistfully.
In the cold Kabul winter, as they prepared to return to their small, damp apartment, which is all they can afford, Faheema said she had one more wish.
“Take us out of Afghanistan,” she said, “because we won’t be able to have a quiet life here.”
For the victim of battering or Domestic Violence, they exist in a house with someone who hurts them. They are literally “Sleeping With the Enemy.” Abuse is the only crime in America where we ask the victim to lie down in bed next to the person who has just finished knocking their teeth out, punched them in the stomach, burned them with a cigarette, or holding a gun to their head.
Generations of children have learned that battering is normal.
Children in violent homes are often beaten or molested by someone they live with. Even for those who haven’t been beaten, They see their parents as role models. Yes, they often try to protect their mothers but the majority of them repeat the beatings they saw over and over as a child . They learned to be an abuser. Girls in violent families whether beaten or not, watch the victim be punched, dragged, choked, slapped burned with a cigarette and many other vile acts. They learn from their family that they are victims. As they grow older, it is not unusual for abusers and victims to find each other. They live together in their set roles.
This woman is being victimized
Love should never hurt
The scene of Domestic Violence begins like any other relationship. Two people meet and fall in love. They live together or marry and may eventually have a baby. An abuser doesn’t always begin to abuse while they are dating. Sometimes it begins on the honeymoon. That first punch to teach the victim who is in charge. The abuser wants her to know exactly what is expected. Dinner at six, his shirts laundered just so. He expects her to be home all day and he will be calling to check up on her. Sometimes the abuse doesn’t begin until a pregnancy becomes reality. The abuser may say they are pleased and excited, but will then begin to beat the victim up. Frequently, the abuse consists of punching her over and over in the stomach. Many women have lost their babies because of abuse. Sometimes the abuse doesn’t begin until the children are older and the house doesn’t run as smoothly as it used to. The house is full of playing, laughing, screaming or giggling children. They learn soon enough not to bring anyone home to play because an episode of abuse may begin. These are families in name only.
Often violence begins during pregnancy
Hands were made for hugging and not for hitting.
To attempt to prevent episodes of abuse, the victim will try to have everything just the way the abuser wants it. The children are taught to be quiet and just eat dinner and go do homework. They stay in their rooms or go to a friend’s house so that they won’t be battered or have to hear the screams of pain and the abusive slurs that go hand in hand with the physical abuse.
If you are being abused or know someone who is, get out and go to a shelter. Almost all cities have shelters now. Get yourself and the kids out before the abuse escalates and someone is dead. In a shelter, you will find medical help, warm beds, food, counseling, legal advice and assistance. You and your children will be protected and supported as you begin the process of starting a new life without violence.
It is never, never right to abuse a woman or children. It is never right to abuse a man. This is not really love. It is power and control. The abuser thinks he owns you. Leaving the violent home will be the beginning of having the ability to live without the fear of abuse.