The husband calls the wife complaining that nobody serves him a cup of tea. He sits on a cushion, in the living room. The wife comes, reassures him that the water is boiling, and asks him to talk over an important topic. The husband, a moustached man, raises his voice and says: “Bring me first the tea. What’s up?”.
“I want to talk to you about our daughter.”
“What’s the matter? Is she unhappy? You women of the household are again complaining?”.
“Hasina would like to continue studying.”
“What kind of idea is that? She has to get married, she has to settle down, that is her future. Why should she study? For what? This is an inmoral and odd idea!”
“Our daughter is intelligent and committed. She is a respectful girl and is admired by the whole community.”
“Therefore she has to get married soon. I do not like when people make comments about her!”
“She is clever and she deserves studying. What I could not do myself because my parents prevented me to do so…”
“Again?” reacts with embarassement the husband. “I gave you kids, I gave you a house and a decent life, why are you still moaning? You are not grateful to me.”
“I am, but she often cries…”
In the sleeping room, the son is arguing with his sister Hasina: “Why are you crying, sister? I guess I know why: you want to go out with your girlfriends in the afternoon again, is not it?”
“And if it were so? Where is the problem? They are my friends, what is wrong with that? I am sad” she answers back.
“You are a girl, an unmarried girl, and it is certainly not an honorable thing to stroll around as you do.”
“It is not fair, you go out as often as you like. Take me out, please!” she implores him.
“Enough, Hasina! I took you on the street already once this week.”
Abdull the brother gets annoyed and stands up, leaving her sister’s room. He enters the living room calling after his father: “Father, father, Hasina wants to go out in the afternoon to see her girlfriends again.”
“Tell her that I do not approve this habit, especially now that she is in the age of marriage” replies the father. Then, staring at him, he adds: “I told you what to tell her, and now leave me alone with your mother, please”. Adbull leaves the living room.
“Listen wife, I will arrange Hasina’s marriage within a month. I am thinking to the son of the restaurant’s owner.”
“In a month? Without listening to her wishes?” she wonders worriedly.
“The suitor’s family is respected. And now, please, let me alone because I have some affairs to settle.”
The day after, the mother finds Hasina pale and fragile. “How are you, my daughter?” “I am okay” she murmurs without emotion. A few minutes slip away when the mother hears the daughter sobbing loudly in her room. The door is closed. The mother leaves her homework for a while, and moves towards Hasina’s room.
“Aaahhh! May God forgive us! What are you doing?” screems the mother. Hasina has a lace in her hands and is fixing it at the room’s chandelier. “My daughter, you scare me. God helps us, may God have compassion for us! Please, Hasina!” she cries. “Please come down!”
“I want to leave this world, I have no reason to stay…” and she breaks into desperate tears. The mother holds her with strenght. They are crying together, relieving their pains in a compassionate hug.
“Please Hasina, I do not want you to have any more such horrendous ideas. I won’t tell your father anything, but please come back to a more reasonable mood!”
“Beloved husband, you daughter is unwell, she does not feel happy because she cannot fulfill her dream to study, please let her having a future” says calmly the wife to her husband, the night, after dinner. The husband does not reply. “The world has changed. Our little girl has many gifts, she cannot end up living the same life as many simpler girls of her age live.”
“It is not a matter of stupidness” says Abdull interfering in the conversation “It is because she is a girl in the age of marriage.”
“Shut up” replies his father interrupting him. “Hasina cannot loose her time in useless readings which do not bring anything to our family, but expenses” speaks out the father with dry tone of voice“, and he adds: “For me the matter is closed. Now, bring me a cup of tea, please.”
“Listen, my sweet and beloved daughter” whispers the wife to Hasina, holding her tightly. “Do not worry about your father’s sternness, he is like this…” Hasina’s visage is crossed by silent tears. “I give you the permission to register at the university, you deserve it, and whatever happens, I will carry the burden.”
The daughter sobs with childish abandon, and replies: “Thank you, mother.”
“If he wants to beat someone, she will have to beat me. I am ready to be your shield, I am not afraid of your father’s rage, I would die for you.”
* * *
This is a story from a theater play staged by the girls of OPAWC, a Kabul-based Center promoting Afghan women’s capabilities. All the actors were girls, also those playing male roles. There, many women of the district, of any age, come at the Center to learn handicraft. Between one handicraft session and the other, they write poetry, acquire speaking skills, get acquainted with their rights, as women and as citizens, and become more aware of themselves and confident . Many come despite the disagreement of their husbands or fathers;, many come without their husbands or fathers knowing about it. OPAWC Director Latifa Ahmady and her team have been visiting many households, so as to persuade husbands or fathers to lift any ban on their women wishing to visit the Center. They often succeed. Sometimes, they do not, repressed girls commit suicide, and their families hide the disgraceful act from the community.
* * *
Theater character Hasina is Mina in real life. After that theater show, Mina’s parents have decided to give her daughter in marriage to a man. That was fast. A warlord had set his eyes upon her, and threatened her family to kidnap her and make her one of his wives. Reality is worst than fiction. Hasina might have a chance to keep studying. Mina is now an unhappily married lady.