I am from Afghanistan. I am now an undergraduate student on scholarship at an American college. I was on campus last Sunday when I read – and agonized over – an article on the front page of The New York Times about the attempted “honor killing” of an Afghan teenager.
This young woman was from the provinces and dared to run away with a man who was not her husband. Along with emphasizing the horror of all this, I want Americans to know that this is not merely a practice of the provinces of my country. Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, is in some ways a relatively sophisticated city. But this kind of wicked ignorance happens there too.
I also want Americans to know that some women manage to save their own lives. They hide and escape. A friend of mind from Kabul did just that. With a secret mobile phone she messaged her boyfriend from the bathroom of the family house where her father was keeping her a prisoner – and they plotted their escape.
That Sunday newspaper article told the story of Gul Meena, struck by an ax fifteen times because she “dishonored” her family.
My friend – before she ran away – was persecuted in the name of religion. But an honor killing can happen simply because a woman and a man fall in love without the permission of elders. That seems to have been the case with Gul Meena. It is said that Gul Meena broke fundamental moral codes. I say that she broke absurd patriarchal laws.
I will call the friend who came to mind on Sunday “Samana.” I will call the boy with whom she fell in love and with whom she ran away “Khalid.” It would be too dangerous for me to use their real names.