Men who hate women

Scritto da in data Marzo 30, 2023

Farida looks at me, gets up, and leaves the room without saying a word. The air is cut with a knife. Sometimes it’s the unsaid  that penetrates you deeply and tears your soul apart. At some point of our meeting, everything had become too much. Every word she spoke weighed like a stone falling onto another, as if there was a hailstorm of stones around us that had buried this twenty-nine-year-old woman with big blue eyes for her whole life. The color of the sea. A sea of pain and suffering that makes you wonder if there is a limit to what a person can endure. That limit became this moment, the moment when Farida felt tears fill her eyes and ran away to not be seen crying. She went to a dark corner in the next room. And the silence of the one I’m in becomes even more noisy under the blows of her tears.

There is no rush, Farida, who fights every day to have one more day to live, can take all the time she wants. Then she comes back, apologizes — when I wish I could apologize for intruding into her story — and we move on. Her two eldest daughters sit next to her. There are thirteen years between her and the eldest. Farida was twelve when her parents told her she had to marry a thirty-five-year-old man. At thirteen, she gave birth to Laleh. What does it feel like to get married when you are still a child? “It’s been so long that I don’t remember, the pain I endured from that day prevents me from remembering.”

Farida was given in marriage because, according to one of the many Afghan traditions, when a brother gets married, there is a sort of economic convenience in marrying the sister, perhaps to the brother of the daughter-in-law. Except she was just a child. At that time, the two families were living in Iran. Like many refugees, they entered into marriages of convenience, perhaps a little hasty, but no one could have imagined that the man Farida would marry would be a monster.

The beatings started right away. No reason was necessary. He would get high and take it out on her. She didn’t leave because she was afraid of losing her children. She asked her father for help, they fed her because her husband wouldn’t give her food, they comforted her, but divorce was still not an option. Years pass, and they all return to Afghanistan. Farida can’t take it anymore. She continues to endure until he sends her to the hospital. Five years ago. Broken nose and two broken ribs. But it’s one too many creaks of her bones. She’s still young, but now she knows she doesn’t want to live with him anymore. She reports him to the police, moves to her parents’ house. And he runs away to Iran. For two years, he disappears. She asks for a divorce. He says no. Those two years, however, are almost carefree, she works in a police office, is with her three children, is independent and tends to the wounds of what is more like a shooting gallery than a marriage, where she was the prey for all her adolescence. Then her husband returns. And he wants her and the children back.

“I couldn’t go back. I couldn’t start over,” murmurs Farida, she believed that leaving him was the only way to survive. And so one day like many in a Kabul of a few years ago, when women could still think of building a life for themselves, Farida receives a call at work that she can’t even believe at first.

On that day, the husband calls Farida’s father to talk to him about divorce. He visits him with nine relatives, as it is a family matter. They sit down for tea and after finishing their cups, they take out guns and commit a massacre. Farida’s father and brother are killed, while the mother is injured and the children hide. Farida’s twelve-year-old sister calls her at work and she rushes home to find them in a pool of blood.

Farida, with her face framed by a red floral veil and a beauty that transcends the harsh life she has had, pulls out photos that we do not need to see, but she seems to need to share. She spreads them on the carpet in front of me while her daughters look at the dead grandfather, the uncle, and the bandages from the various beatings she has taken over time. A massacre game where there are no winners. A series of horror photos that she keeps as relics of a life imbued with violence, blood, and suffering.

The husband and three relatives are arrested by the police, tried, and sentenced to death. Six months pass, and Farida, with what remains of her family, tries to face life and the pain that surrounds her. For a moment, she thinks that she has fallen so low that there can be nothing more painful. She had known the pain of being married at twelve, of being raped and beaten whenever her husband-master wanted. She had three children whom she loved, but from a man who had brutalized her. She had been hungry, scared, and without a way out. She had lost her father and brother. There couldn’t be anything else. She was not yet twenty-five and had already lived through the worst of everything that could happen to a person in ten lifetimes. She was wrong.

On August 15, the Taliban conquer the country, and one of their first acts was to empty the prisons and grant amnesty to everyone, regardless of what they had done. And so, murderers, terrorists, and traffickers are released. Farida’s husband is also released.

A year has passed, and he continues to call her despite her changing phone numbers and places to live. “The girls do not go to school because the Taliban have forbidden it, but my twelve-year-old son changes schools constantly so he won’t be found.” In his calls, he tells her that he will kill her and take the children. Farida is exhausted. She had to leave everyone behind. She cannot make friends with anyone. She is alone with her three children who are no longer children. Actually, she’s not really alone. Or at least she hasn’t been for a few months now. Talking with a friend in Albania, she learns about an organization that puts her in touch with another Italian organization operating in Afghanistan. It’s called Nove Onlus, a group of strong women who have built projects of emancipation for Afghan women for years, from teaching them how to read to getting a driver’s license. They offer courses in economics and many other small things that help make women’s lives, if not better, a little easier. Then, on August 15th, with the arrival of the Taliban, everything comes to an end. Nove Onlus participates in the evacuation, getting out anyone who has had anything to do with the NGO and could be in danger. Then, slowly but surely, the mission changes. Now, it’s not about helping women improve their lives and contribute to Afghan society. It’s about surviving. Helping families in need, women who can no longer work because the Taliban won’t allow it, children who have no one. Farida immediately enters the Dignity program – the right to exist. But it’s not enough to hide her and help her survive. As long as her husband keeps looking for her, Farida and her children are in danger. They help her with documents, help her find safe houses that no one knows about. The goal is to bring her to a nearby country and then insert her into the first humanitarian corridor that opens for Italy. When? Every day for Farida is an uncertainty that she doesn’t deserve. He could be anywhere, even close to us. The Nove Onlus operator tells us that we’re at the breaking point. If all goes well, they’ll transfer her to another country next week. It’s the “if all goes well” that leaves us speechless, just hearing the sound of the words said one after the other.

Italy will be the end of her nightmare, if she can hold on a little longer. That Italy which does not speak of naval blockades or invasions. A welcoming Italy that will be the cure for a wounded woman. If all goes well, of course.

Farida can’t even imagine Italy, but she knows she won’t have to be afraid anymore because there are kind people who helped her escape and saved her life and her children’s lives. “In Italy, tears are forbidden by law, here we can only smile,” we joke with her, and she smiles and cries even more.

Farida, are you afraid of the future? “I’m afraid of my past. I don’t know what the future holds, it could be even worse, but I don’t know, and I prefer that uncertainty to the security of what I’m leaving behind. I’m Afghan and I love my country. But now it scares me. My country is my danger. I asked for help from people, from the police, but no one helped me because I’m just a woman like many others in the same situation. I’ve lost everything. My family, my job, the Taliban told me I should stay with my husband because a woman with daughters cannot be alone,” she continues talking in a stream of tears that has now infected everyone. “I’ll go somewhere else, to Italy, where I won’t be able to communicate, where there are different traditions and habits, but I just want a better life. I want my daughters to study, I don’t want them to be forced to marry young. I know what that means, every day of my life has taught me that there must be something better. I can’t be afraid anymore. I’m so tired.”

Did you have a dream, Farida, one of those crazy dreams that children have? “When I was little, I wanted to be an astronaut, I wanted to go to the moon. Now I just want my girls to have crazy dreams, because for me, the only dream now is to survive another day.

December 19, 2022 – The editorial staff of Radio Bullets is pleased to announce that thanks to the humanitarian corridor with the commitment of Sant’Egidio, Arci, and all those who continue to help this tormented country, which has brought about 150 people to Italy, Nove Onlus has managed to bring Farida, her two children, and her third child to Italy. They are safe in Bari, where they will have to heal from a life that has not spared them. But now here with us, they have the opportunity to build a new story where the girls will go to school and can realize their dreams.

The report in Italian

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