In the Life

Shiite Afghan Women Rise Up From Silence

One year ago, on April 15, 2009, a cloudy day, the hearts of Afghan women in Kabul were full of foreboding. The women who had risen from the ashes of Talibani injustice, planned to gather in front of a mosque and Madrasa(seminary) that supported the discriminating Shiite Personal Status Law. Everything was arranged. The Ministry of Interior Affairs and the Police were informed and the women had a sanctioned letter from them. The women planned to have a calm demonstration to protest against a dogmatic and misogynic law which would affect women's rights. It drizzled. Women were gathering gradually under the rain. The situation did not seem normal. During the previous days and nights, Mohseni, the owner of Madrasa, had broadcast on TV some negative propaganda against the amendment of the Shiite Personal Status Law. A group of male scholars and some females were inside the Madrasa. They seemed so exasperated. Women had placards with these sentences: "We need law but a democratic law"; "The law should respect human dignity" "Equality is our right".

The intolerant scholars shouted and insulted the female demonstrators. A protesting woman described how "Mohseni and his fans produced much negative propaganda. The simple people believed him. Even my sister was among them and told me "You are a heathen and you are against Islam." But I only want the rights of women, and that is not against Islam. The intolerant men spat on faces of the female demonstrators and addressed them as western prostitutes! However the Police intervened and prevented more violence.

It was reported that women who wanted to join the demonstration were stopped by another group of scholars in the west of Kabul. Also a private school in the west of Kabul was attacked by wrathful people. During a sermon at the mosque, a mullah proclaimed, "Some people who have been heathenized are going to demonstrate against Islam and they intend to pay your women and girls to join them. The demonstration is led from this school. You should stop them and do not allow your women to go out tomorrow." They broke the windows of the school and wanted to enter the school by violence. The police came and stopped the attack. The school children were afraid of attack. They left the school but I don't know what they think about this kind of Islam (Islam with violence).

Everything seems chaotic. What happened and why? What is the reason for all this violence? I could not understand. As a Muslim, I have learned that "what logic commands, the Sharia commands too". I could never accept logically some of the provisions of this law, and I am sure many people agree with me. How could I believe discrimination against women should be in the frame of law? I could not believe that the clergy, who claim they are referencing the Sharia, are being rational.

However that rainy day was a good start for the Afghan women to break their silence. Some of provisions were amended or eliminated. Although the changes were not fully satisfying, the fundamentalist and dogmatic clergy learned that they could no longer chain women with unfair rules. I know some of women in the world, especially in the countries with a common culture and religion with Afghanistan, have been fighting for changes to achieve their civil rights for many years. I think that in order to have a developed and peaceful country we must move forward and have equal rights and opportunity.

Zakia Shefayee