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Emotions Behind the Veil
|by Ritesh Jhamb|
I was 14 when Taliban took over. I still remember correctly, until the Taliban came to power, I being a girl, used to listen to music, see movies and television, go to picnics, wedding parties, New Year celebrations and any kind of mixed-sex gathering, romped around in public gardens and even go out for shopping with my friends. You wont believe, I was studying at that time, that too in a co educational school. My mother was working in the Government Department. When Radio Kabul broke the news of the Taliban getting control of the city, suddenly my mother stopped going to her office and I kept on pestering my mother that why she stopped going to office as there is no other earning hand in the house because my father was martyr of the protracted war. But instead I was bunged in the house and inhibited to go out anywhere. Our house windowpanes were painted black and the gunmen took our television away. Every time, my mother, when inquired by me about what is going around, start screaming. My mother and I were confined to the walls of the house. I was not permitted to meet any of my friends.
Then one day, I came to know from the public announcement, voice of which was very clear and loud enough to be heard unambiguously, that now onwards Sharia (Islamic law) will prevail and there is a set of rules, the majority of which were applicable to feminine part of the society only. After having listen to all that as I was not out of earshot, I understood that now onwards I along with my mother will have to live hellishly because it gave me a hunch that draconic rulers of Taliban looks upon women as sub-humans, fit only for household slavery and as a means of procreation. Now under the new regime, the ladies can't laugh or talk aloud in public, and even their shoes must make no sound. Wearing cosmetics or showing your ankles is punishable by whipping; if any female wear nail polish then her fingers will be amputated . Also houses having females inside will have to paint the windows of their house black so they cannot be seen from the outside. They were also forbidden from walking on balcony or in backyard of their own houses even.
The worst came on that day , when my mother got sick and she was shivering and trembling with fever, I took her to the hospital in the taxi. Initially the taxi driver too was hesitant to go with us because we both were ladies and there was no Muharram. (The close male relative) with us, but when I elucidated him everything, then he let my mother and me to sit in his taxi. When we reached the hospital ,my mother wanted to spew. But how could she vomit without unveiling the Burqa (it is a garment that covers women from head to toe) and that was not possible as there were many males around. We couldn't see any lady around.. no nurse, no doctor (lady). I was thinking that world around us has taken a swerve turn. And we couldn't even talk to any male staff present there, as it was punishable under the new so called Islamic law which the fundamentalists have imposed. I skimmed through the lobby of the hospital there was no place to sit as few members of superior gender of the society were occupying the chairs here and there and we are not permitted to sit on the empty chairs around them.
Then we saw a veil clad lady and I wasting no moment and preoccupied with the idea that she is a Doctor, went to her and spoke out about my mother's illness. She was benevolent and carefully listened all that I uttered and whispered in my ear to my disappointment that she is not a doctor and she had come here to see her ill husband. As per the new regulations only female doctor can see the female patients. Then I learnt that most of the female doctors had been laid off. Now there is only one female doctor who comes in the day hours only and it was late evening. I was hemmed and hawed as my mother was smoldering with high fever and there were no signs of any help. I was standing in the lobby of the hospital holding my mother. I could feel the pain of my mother who was sobbing but couldn't cry as it was also banned, the voice of woman should not reach the men as it lures them sexually.
Then suddenly my mother fainted and fell down on the floor, but out of so many men around, few of them belong to the mediocre community, no one came forward to help my ill mother who kept all inside, which her body wanted to spew. Then suddenly she vomited and all fell on her all-enveloping Burqa, which became filthy and fouled. But she was feeling better now. I, against all my mother's resistance, uncovered her face as what I felt that the foul smell of her vomit will make her sick again. But my mother who didn't want to be uncovered insisted that her face should be covered without more ado. I covered her face with my handkerchief. We were still on the floor right in the corner of the lobby, when a humane male doctor who was watching us and couldn't see the pitiable condition of my mother, came forward to help us. He checked her pulse and the other organs with the help of stethoscope and asked the paramedic to prepare ampoule and boiling water. When everything was ready, he injected my mother in the thigh. After injecting the medication, my mother rubbed her thigh, waiting to cover it. Then suddenly, two men from the implementation of Islamic Law Department, who were scrutinizing us at length entered the hospital. Without any questioning, they attacked my mother, claiming that she was guilty of adultery. After beating the doctor, they took both of us along with the doctor. I continually insisted that she was absolutely sinless, but the Taliban ignored me and took her to the Department where she was promptly imprisoned. I was ordered to be lashed ten times publicly and the Doctor was released after giving stern warning.
The day came, when I was to receive lashes publicly. Many men and boys poured into the dilapidated stadium. Street hawkers peddled nuts, biscuits and tea to the waiting crowd. The scheduled amusement? I was taken away from my home in a jeep to the stadium, where I saw through the heavy gauze patch of my Burqa veil that it was not only me alone but many other woman who were standing on the penalty line in the stadium to receive the punishment. But I was the first in the queue, somebody came and started lashing me with a whip, after receiving two lashes, I couldn't bear and I took off the cover piece of cloth which was covering my face leaving the crowd and the so called guardians of the holy law, astounded. My punishment was doubled and now I have to receive twenty lashes more. After fifteen on my back I was not able to sustain any more and broke out, took off my Burqa and threw it in front of the person holding the whip and told them in the highest tenor that 'If anybody hits me again, I will take all my clothes off.' I don't know from where that courageousness came. Then Taliban soldier with his head wrapped in the traditional turban, took aim with his rifle towards my forehead, while I was forced to sit forcibly by two policewomen and then, heard a gunshot, which broke my reverie and I woke up sweating and that was not the gunshot but the sound of the cracker, which was blown off by my son. I thanked God that it was the dream only.
But how can I forget that dreadful dream and the insomniac nights thereafter' I am thinking that in realty also such atrocities must have happened to the distressed women in Taliban-infested Afghanistan daily, but they receive no coverage in the media, nor are there any officials who care to track down and prosecute the perpetrators of such heinous crimes. The Taliban, who are supposedly in charge of the "government," are so deeply corrupted and anti-woman minded that they are without peers anywhere else in the world.I am thinking about the Afghan women, as to how they should react now. 'Whether they mourn the death of their near and dear ones who have lost their lives in the protracted war or welcome the northern alliance who captured Kabul recently. I was glued to the Television seeing media covering the event of northern alliance entering the Kabul gates and jubilant male folks greeting them. But has anybody saw inside under the Burqa 'veil, the emotions, the sentiments of the afghan woman? The majority of the female population left inside the country is either widows, orphans, prostitutes or beggars as a result of the imposition of so called Islamic law, the unending war of the past two decades and in particular of the fundamentalist in-fighting of the past eight years. I read about the Taliban minister of education, who said, "It's (a woman) like having a flower, or a rose. You water it and keep it at home for yourself, to look at it and smell it. It [a woman] is not supposed to be taken out of the house to be smelled." Another Taliban leader was less poetic: "There are only two places for Afghan women ' in her husband's house, and in the graveyard." As now most of the woman had lost their husbands, so where should they go now? Well now when we all are talking about establishing a government in Kabul, has anybody thought of active participation of woman in the said Government? Which I think is the only solution for the Afghan woman to rise and to fight for their rights.
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