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‘Let me be myself’


I was once talking to an Afghan man about living in Europe and America, about the advantages and disadvantages. Very unexpectedly, he said something which surprised me. He said, “I would never choose to live in a foreign country together with my wife because I’d lose all control over her.”

Marina Zaffari talks about her search for her identity as a woman and a wife in Afghanistan.

Almost all Afghan men think like this. They think they must have control over their wives. Some husbands deliberately prevent their wives from pursuing any independent activity.

The definition of marriage for Afghan families is not more than a grand ceremony and a license to produce children. Real values are lost, an ideal husband for a woman is a rich man, and it is not important if he is educated or not, no cares about his age. If a man has a new stylish car and a big house, it’s a done deal.

And men want their wives to be young, beautiful and do all the housework. Even bright young men think in the same manner. Most Afghan men don’t like seeing their wives work outside the house. They say, women are diamonds and nobody should leave a diamond uncovered or take it out of the house. The funny thing is, many women are satisfied with this foolish reason. The Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, himself talks about women’s rights and their role in society, but I have never seen his wife beside him even once.

I am very disappointed when I see that working women are not allowed to work outside anymore after they get married. When their wives insist on working after marriage, the husbands say they will pay the exact same amount to their wives provided they stay at home. We need to ask what will happen to men if their wives ask them to keep quiet, to not go out and do exactly what their wives say.

This marginalization has now led many women to ask the question, “Who am I?”
This is how Dr.Ali Shariati explains his views in the first chapter of his book called Fatema.

“In our society, women change rapidly. The tyranny of our times and the influences of institutions take her from `what she is’. All her traditional characteristics and values are taken away from her until they make her into a creature `they want’, `they build’, and we see that they have built’! This is why the most important and relevant question for the awakened woman at this time is, ‘Who am I,’ knowing full well that she cannot remain what she is. Actually, a woman does not want to accept modern masks to replace the traditional ones. She wants to decide for herself. Her contemporaries choose for themselves. They consciously decorate their personalities with awareness and independence. They thoroughly ornament themselves”.

The forceful efforts of men to gain the control on women by humiliating them implicitly degrade the identity of women. When a girl is born, her father decides for her until she gets married, when she grows older her elder brother takes her responsibility and after marriage, her husbands takes over the controls.

I totally disagree with this definition that women are mothers. If women are mothers, men are fathers too! Women are women and nobody has the right to steal this identity from them. Those who are standing against this tradition are usually criticized by others. Recently men and some women in Afghanistan broke the silence and started to talk and ask for their rights. I love Harvey S. Firestone’s saying: “Never be bullied into silence, never allow your self to be made victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define your self.”

I will respect you, when you respect my identity.

Do not ever try to make me what ever you want, let me be myself.

Author: Marina Zaffari

Editor: Manasi Gopalakrishnan


25.10.2012 | 15:42