The voices of the survivors

Krishnan Guru-murthy went to Afghanistan to report on abused women for channel 4. He found it unsettling. He has a daughter, who is 8. He loves her.

So listening to a young woman in Kabul describe how her father stabbed her 16 times, slashed her throat and left her for dead because she refused to marry the man he’d chosen is an unsettling experience. I was in Afghanistan for Unreported World  making a film about how some fathers and husbands treat their daughters and wives.

There is all sorts of cultural history and religious pressure to explain how women have been deprived basic rights in Afghanistan. But this kind of violence? I can’t pretend to understand how anyone can do it, but the voices of the survivors are compelling.

I can’t understand it either. I can understand rage and ragey impulses, but I can’t understand actually carrying them out. There’s a wall there, that bars comprehension.




  1. Goodbye Enemy Janine says

    I find the actions of that father, stabbing his daughter repeatedly, springs from the same religiously warped impulses that lets conservative christian parents kick out theit LGBT children out of their homes.

    (Still fuming from the long running argument I had at Pharyngula with a man who claimed that I should defend western civilization from islam because watered down christianity is not as toxic to people like me.)

  2. Goodbye Enemy Janine says

    I cannot even begin to try to understand that. Except that an inhuman belief system can destroy the potetial decency a human might have. (A bit simplistic. Yeah. I will admit that.)

  3. S Mukherjee says

    I agree with your comment, Ophelia. In India, I’ve seen cases where parents disowned sons and daughters who married outside their caste, community or nationality, but they certainly did not attack their children in this kind of violent paroxysm of rage (though that too happens sometimes — the recent case in Haryana for example). To be capable of so much violence towards your child takes a particular kind of poisoning of the mind.

  4. johnthedrunkard says

    We’ve had several instances of lethal child-abuse inspired by ‘To Bring Up a Child’ (is that the right title?) and other Christian movements.

    Mental illness probably has some overlap as well. But if you live in a culture where owning a cell phone while female is a capital offence….

    Fred Phelps=’mainstream’ Muslim parent?

  5. Omar Puhleez says

    Quite likely, an urge to be seen as a good conformist re prevailing Islamic social standards trumped this father’s natural impulse (of whatever strength) to protect his daughter.

    I understand that ‘protection of women and girls’ is the rationale for much Islamic practice. Muslim fathers are not noted for standing by while their wives and daughters are assaulted, raped or murdered. Well, not to my knowledge, anyway. Though women are of course, routinely assaulted and raped within marriage, and murdered (judicially, usually by stoning) for infringement of holy Islam’s holy bloody codes.

    Husbands of course, always trump fathers over what is right and wrong for the women concerned. Unless the clerics decide otherwise.

  6. Gordon Willis says

    I think it starts at birth — if it’s a girl, there is something shameful. How can a man be seen to have fathered a girl? All that weakness and mental inferiority… After all, women must be weak because men can dominate them, and women must be stupid because men can shut them up, and when women talk and talk and talk real people don’t have to listen to them because they’re only weak stupid women who can only talk and talk and talk, and anybody who listens is obviously not a real person — I mean, it’s obvious.

    Then there is the high price put on women as male attractants, and how women can therefore be bartered and traded for social advantage, which requires that their already inferior mental powers must be subjugated to the ends of social advancement, which is obvious and natural and the way it just is, obviously.

    Then there is the fact that men are really really strong, yeah, and can govern women as they choose, and women are therefore weaker, and are therefore unmanly, and therefore shameful, and valuable only as desirable property, and fit only for slavery, and real people do not have to consider their feelings (which are obviously just a pain and a noise and totally irrelevant) but only their usefulness to real people, and so on and on.

    Then there is the terrible power that evil and licentious and corrupt women with breasts and faces and legs and eyes and…and hands and …hair and…and feet and…have to incite a man’s lust and distract him from the noble pursuit of worthier goals, so wicked and digusting as they are — I mean, the women, obviously, not my obviously worthy goals, obviously. Really, there is no end to the complexity that evolves from lust and muscle-power.

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