They kept beating us with sticks

More religious bullying. (Of a much worse variety. Of a nightmarish variety. That’s how it is – we lurch from the bad to the horrendous, day by day and hour by hour. But the horrendous doesn’t make the bad something we should shrug off. We have to pay attention to all of it.)

Shakila, age 8, was grabbed by a bunch of men with AK-47s, and held for a year.

…the taking of girls as payment for misdeeds committed by their elders still appears to be flourishing. Shakila, because one of her uncles had run away with the wife of a district strongman, was taken and held for about a year. It was the district leader, furious at the dishonor that had been done to him, who sent his men to abduct her.

A man did something so another man sent a bunch of men to do a horrible thing to a girl of 8. Makes sense.

“We did not know what was happening,” said Shakila, now about 10, who spoke softly as she repeated over and over her memory of being dragged from her family home. “They put us in a dark room with stone walls; it was dirty and they kept beating us with sticks and saying, ‘Your uncle ran away with our wife and dishonored us, and we will beat you in retaliation.’”

Despite being denounced by the United Nations as a “harmful traditional practice,” baad is pervasive in rural southern and eastern Afghanistan, areas that are heavily Pashtun, according to human rights workers, women’s advocates and aid experts. Baad involves giving away a young woman, often a child, into slavery and forced marriage. It is largely hidden because the girls are given to compensate for “shameful” crimes like murder and adultery and acts forbidden by custom, like elopement, say elders and women’s rights advocates.

And then after that cheerful beginning it gets a bit grim.

Views of baad differ sharply between men and women, with more men seeing it as a way of preserving families and stopping blood feuds, and women seeing it in terms of the suffering of the young girl asked to pay for another’s wrongs.

“Giving baad has good and bad aspects,” said Fraidoon Mohmand, a member of Parliament from Nangahar Province, who has led a number of jirgas. “The bad aspect is that you punish an innocent human for someone else’s wrongdoings, and the good aspect is that you rescue two families, two clans, from more bloodshed, death and misery.”

He also said he believed that a woman given in baad suffered only briefly.

“When you give a girl in baad, they are beaten maybe, maybe she will be in trouble for a year or two, but when she brings one or two babies into the world, everything will be forgotten and she will live as a normal member of the family,” he said.

Not so, said the Afghan women interviewed, especially if she is unlucky enough to give birth to a girl.

“The woman given to a family in baad will always be the miserable one,” said Nasima Shafiqzada, who is in charge of women’s affairs for Kunar Province. “She has to work a lot. She will be beaten. She has to listen to lots of bad language from the other females in the family.”

Shakila’s experience was horrible. Read on.

H/t Sunny


  1. anne says

    Appalling. Is there a word for appalled but not surprised? The comments on that NYT post are depressing. Most of them are versions of “that’s their custom; we can’t interfere/change it.” I think it warrants more than a shrug, so thanks for making it more visible. Any suggestions on what else we can do to help the likes of Shakila?

  2. stonyground says

    We atheists are always being told that we have no moral compass. Better to have no moral compass then, rather than one that is so badly calibrated. The same applies to all those who accept this kind of thing on the grounds of tolerance for other cultures.

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