“One Afghan woman’s quest for her stolen child”
At a very young age, Maryam could distinguish the difference as to how females and men get viewed/treated in Afghanistan so as a young girl; Maryam decided that she wanted to be a boy, her family even played along. But obviously as she grew up, she could not pretend to be a boy. She tells us about her life as a pre-scholar and how sheltered her life was as her parents were loving people.
She then gives us a bit of her background. The circumstances her father was born in. She tells us that her grandmother was a fourth wife of a very wealthy and influential man. Her grandmother happened to be her husband’s favourite wife and made her lady of their home which in turn made the other three wives and their kids jealous and very vengeful. When her grandfather passed away (before Maryam was born), that is where things got worse for Maryam’s grandmother and father and aunts. Maryam’s grandmother, father and sisters ended up being abused by Maryam’s father’s stepbrother. Nothing was ever the same until one day when Maraym’s father, Ajab was old enough to stand up for himself and take his mother, wife and firstborn daughter, Nadia, away from his evil brother. By then his sisters were murdered, believe to be poisoned by Shair, Ajab’s step brother.
Maryam then take us into the life of her being a teenager. How the Russian invaded their place, Kabul, and wanted to make them communists which they fought hard against. She describes the war that has taken place and how her family’s life was in danger. And how she started feeling hatred towards the Russians for invading their homes and killing their people and imprisoning and torturing their people for no apparent reasons. Then she tells us about the time the Taliban took over and how things just spiraled out of control in Kabul and that the Taliban was no better than the Russians.
She then takes us into her life of adulthood, in her twenties living in America but then her father was adamant to see her married off and he throws a blind eye to the warnings he received from family and friends of both Maryam and Kaiss (the man Ajab chose for his daughter to marry) about the man he had in mind to marry his daughter and that he should not let his daughter marry Kaiss. But to no avail, she gets married and then the abuse and rape starts. Maryam eventually become pregnant in 1986 and by the time her son is two years of age, his father kidnaps and runs away with him. Years later Maryam, remarries and gives birth to her second son but thankfully for her, her second husband had a caring nature. She still struggles with her second husband’s culture but she is not as worst off as she was when she was married the first time.
Maryam fight long and hard to get her son back but only eventually get to see her son after 17 years around 2005 but her son has been brainwashed against her. Maryam’s fears came true, and that was that her son was exactly like his father. I was so happy that she could reunite with her son but yet I was sad that read what have become of her son. Her son lived with her for quite a while but she then learns the real reason why her son “ran” away from his father to be reunited with her.
What really angered me was the fact that in the time Maryam was beaten and raped by her husband, her family namely her father and sister chose to throw a blind eye to what was happening to Maryam. Kaiss even threathened to kill her father and son but yet her family allowed Kaiss back into their lives and most importantly, Maryam’s life. As if she hadn’t gone through enough. She eventually got divorced but her family did not respect her wishes that she wanted nothing to do with Kaiss. She told her family that Kaiss will seize every opportunity to kidnap her son but her family thought she was being irrational and erratic. Yet Maryam’s worst fears and suspicion came true. And I felt angered towards her family for allowing this man back into her life. This coming from a family who raised their children as equals and who never beaten Maryam or Nadia, her sister. Who had a loving home compared to most people living in Afghanistan.
I have to say the author’s note stirred something very deep inside of me. I was moved. See below for author’s note.
The Author’s note:
“The heart of evil beats in Afghanistan. When men hold every advantage, neither wealth, nor beauty, nor intelligence, nor education, nor strength, nor family can compete with gender. Women have only prayer and hope as allies. Whether the men in their lives choose to marry them off to an old man, take away their children or even murder them, women live with the knowledge that there will be no rescue. Female liberation is not in the Afghan culture.
This is the story of Maryam Khail, a beautiful Afghan woman born into of the most influential families in Afghanistan, a family of wealth and power. Despite her beauty, her education, and her strength, the evil that lurks in every home of Afghanistan finally caught up with Maryam.
This is Maryam’s story. Pray that her story does not become yours.”
Quotes out of the novel that left me sad, shocked, and angry or with disbelief:
“In Afghanistan girls can dream, but only the dreams of boys come true. Boys own the world they live in, while girls are basically servants, compelled to please the men in their families.”
“Accepted stoning procedures are for a narrow, deep hole to be dug into the ground. The hands of the ‘guilty’ female are bound. Then she is lifted and placed into the constricted hole. Dirt is packed around her so she cannot struggle. Only her head and body form the waist up are left visible.”
“Islam asserts that men and women are equal before God, and gives women various rights such as the right to inherit, the right to choose their own partner in the marriage and the right to work. But Afghan men have always ignored these rights, instead focusing on the sections of Islamic Sharia law that keeping women under the sway of men. For example, in the Sharia court system it takes two women to testify to equal the testimony of one man. In divorce cases, the men always win.”
“Sheltered by my father, I could have never imagined that the freedom I took for granted was nothing more than a mirage, and that unimaginable oppression and abuse lay in wait for every Afghan woman.”
“A sorrowful look flashed across my mother’s face when she said. ‘Maryam, Amina’s husband used his fists to box her ears, so damaging her hearing that her world is now silent. She is deaf’ “
“My father did this. Whenever one of his wives was in labour, he would become furious, claiming that his rest was disturbed by their screaming. He would rush into the room and, oblivious to her pain, shout at her to shut up. If she could not hold back her cries of pain, he would kick her in the back until she was silenced.”
“Kaiss had taken four days off from work. He raped me repeatedly during those endless days and nights.”
“Most Afghan men are suspicious of females. They believe all women are promiscuous and must be isolated from men who are not their family or else they will commit the most sexually depraved acts.”
“I groaned in desperation, stung by the indifference of those who claimed to love me. It seemed my family would prefer that I lived in utter misery, that I be beaten daily, that I be used as a sex slave by my husband, anything was better than for a Pashtun woman to have sought independence and a divorce.”
“Female doctors were not to treat male patients. Female patients could only go to female doctors, leading to terrible tragedy when sick women could no longer get any medical help at all. (Later, female physicians would be banned from work).”