Ramadhan mubarak, everyone 🙂 I hope you’re all having a wonderful and spiritually enlightening month! God be our Light, always, aameen!
This morning, when I checked my Facebook, I was greeted by an incredibly unsettling and disgusting message from someone named Sargand Ghazi (the link is to his Facebook profile – this is probably not his real name): He had sent me a naked picture of himself (private part) – no face showing, of course, because he’s so profoundly brave – with the message, all caps, “I LOVE YOU.” (?)
And so I was reminded of this series that I’d promised to keep up with. Click here for an Introduction to the Series; and click here to read the first story I received. (I’d like to emphasize here that people, especially Pashtuns, need to read the Introductory post so I don’t get the usual “STOP MAKING IT SEEM LIKE ONLY PASHTUNS DO THIS” responses.) Below is Story #2, and more will be shared soon. Thank you for reading! 🙂 Feel free to contribute your own thoughts and experiences, whether you’re Pashtun or not. I understand this harassment isn’t limited to Pashtuns alone. God be with us all, aameen.
The below is shared by an active Twitter and Facebook user who’s a staunch proponent of Pashtun nationalism and is unabashedly outspoken about women’s rights. The comments she often receives on her posts in support especially for women’s rights are vulgar and misogynistic, and she’s sent me screenshots of some of them here. I’m trying my best to translate them since they’re primarily in Pashto.
She and I have a funny mutual story. (Predictably, some of these harassers harass women who happen to be friends and share the men’s vulgar messages and comments with each other.) So there’s someone named Akmal Dost on Facebook (Wayand Sangin on Twitter) who, while we were having what was in my opinion a completely innocent conversation–one of those times when I decided to be kind to my blog readers and respond to their messages when they contact me–comes the next day to complain to me about how tired he is because he had plenty of back-to-back meetings. So he asks me to extend my legs so he can rest upon them and/or that I should massage his legs. This is unacceptable in any culture, but in a culture as obsessed with modesty as the Pashtun culture, this is beyond unacceptable. While it’d be unfair to say that all of “Pashtun culture” is this invested in modesty necessarily, since all cultures are understood differently by different families belonging to them, in some Pashtun communities/families, it is unacceptable even when a daughter massages her father’s feet/body or if a sister massages her brother’s. (I’ve given more details and examples on what Pashtuns consider shameful and taboo, etc., under a post I’ve proudly titled The Privilege of Sexy Talk. #beamsBecuzImSoCreativeWithTitlesSometimes) Of course, this man wasn’t literally expecting this of me (he’s in Afghanistan physically, and I’m in the U.S.), but his nerve! His thinking that I would accept his comment! How he dared!
Here’s a screenshot of our conversation:
I used “wife” there (“why are you speaking to me like I’m your wife?”) because, at least per cultural and religious standards, such intimacy is acceptable only among married couples. (Note how he goes on to tell me when he does seek permission: “I only take permission when I am ready to put something in something before making any damage or cause[ing] any pain.”) The fact that he approached me as if I would approve of such an intimate conversation appalls me. An absolute HELL-NO! To him and to any other man of his sort.
And then when I saw him sending vulgar messages to my friend M. on Twitter, I told her what he’d said to me. She then shared a lot of other such messages from several other men. She, like many other women (including me), has received naked pictures from men–of themselves, we presume–and she says:
My advice to all pakhtuns men who don’t respect pakhtane women or don’t consider them as human being should change their mind. Zaka na pa zarroki/scarf ao na pa burqa khaza pakhtana kege ao na pre dranege, doi dey khpal nazar khazo pa haqla badal krri zaka mung 21 tama perrai/century ki usege. Khalaq parmakhtag kawe ao mug khaza ghwa pa shan kor ki tarraly che bahar uweni no pa kato rape kawe [Translation: A woman doesn’t become a Pukhtun simply by covering her face or body or hiding her identity; neither does she gain respect that way. It is the mindset of these men that needs to change. It’s the 21st century, and the rest of the world has advanced while we’re still keeping our women tied in homes like they’re some cattle with the unfounded fear that if she leaves the home, she’ll be raped!] Every pakhtun should educate their sons to respect women on social media and in public, we need change ao change da Zana shoro kege [change begins at home, with ourselves] Yani change their dirty way of thinking of women as a subject. if not we will never become a civilized and peaceful nation.
Here are some screenshots she’s allowed me to share publicly. She has also given permission to be identified by her Social Media name.
My friend Mahbooba replies: “That’s why I don’t cover my face. So that when it shows, you can tell I’m a human.”
The dude whose comment is circled in red (Mahbooba circled it), says to her in response: “Do you think that, since you show your face when you’re not supposed to, anyone would ever accept you as Pashtun? People look at you and they count you as among a nation we have no respect for! No offense, but you need this advice, sister.”
Gulp. Astaghfirullah. God forgive us and help us see our wrong ways so we may correct them. This message above includes multiple ways of saying “eff you” and “eff your mother.” And words that roughly translate to “bitch,” “whore,” etc. (saying that she’s the daughter of a whore or one herself).
In the screenshot above, Akmal Dost, introduced earlier, is referencing a song that describes the (female) beloved as a yellow aloocha (plum). He, as he says, means no offense but is just honestly expressing his feelings for this woman because of her deep devotion to and love for the Pashtun/Afghan cause. Not that her marital status should matter at all, but he does know she’s married.
In the image above, the writer demands proof 1) that Mahbooba is a female, and 2) that she isn’t some proxy working for name-your-favorite-intelligence-agency-etc-that-shuts-all-discussions. Note that this is the same individual who, in an earlier message, told her that if she’s really a woman, she should stay at home and make sure her husband’s sexual demands are being met properly.
The above screenshot has tweets from the brother Junior Skipper (Twitter) threatening to rape our friend M.: He threatens that if she doesn’t shut up, he will do it anally because she’s a feisty girl and won’t be tamed with vaginal rape alone….
My (Orbala’s) message to Mahbooba:
I need you to know that I deeply admire your strength and willingness to take on these trolls despite the consequences. You stand up to them and carry on with your bold attitude–when there should be nothing “bold” about standing up firmly for justice, pointing out the flaws of our communities, and demanding your rights as a woman–knowing the likely reactions of your almost all-male and very patriarchal audience. Thank you for your perseverance (though I will also fully understand if you ever decide to stop, since it can be very discouraging and daunting, I know 🙂 But please don’t stop…). Whatever it may be worth, if anything at all, I’m always happy to back you up and offer any kind of support to remind you that you’re not alone. We women must stick together in this fight!
More stories soon.
– Story 3: on public identity, marriage proposals, unwanted requests