I think this is about the saddest picture I have ever seen. The masked woman is apparently telling her story to a studio audience in Kabul, Afghanistan, while being taped for a television program entitled, Niqab, that I assume is supposed to air on local television. The idea seems straight out of a science fiction movie. “Judging” her is an audience referred to as “The Panel” and made up of “religious and legal experts, as well as human rights campaigners, who offer their insight, opinions and advice.”
One masked woman bares her soul about her rapist husband, whom she was forced to marry at the age of 15, more than 40 years his junior. Not only was she beaten during the marriage, the CNN report quotes, “When my youngest was just four years old, my husband brought women to the house and raped them,” says the woman.
In response to her story a religious expert on “The Panel says, “Your marriage at such a young age to such an older man is against Islam.”
No mention of the rapist or the child witnessing criminal behavior. The local sheriff is not involved, psychologists or even the DA. It’s a story and once the story is told, what? Discussion. Advice. Opinions. No Action.
The program was conceived by 28-year-old Sami Mahdi. The concept may be Oprahesque, but the reality is that only 6% of the Afghan population have televisions. So even if it were broadcast to all televisions, few would see it.
It would also seem that these “secrets” are are not hidden at all. Even Mahdi is aware of the status of women in his country, “In the mind and eye of the people, her work is not worthy…”
CNN states that 59% of all marriages in Afghanistan are forced, which breaks out to 30% for exchanges (don’t like the women you have, exchange them for new models), and 17% as “payment” for a crime. Mahdi’s second installment of Niqab, unearths the reality of a woman who at 12 is given to the family of a man who was murdered by the woman’s own brother. At their hands, she reports being tortured, a heartbreaking story that brings “The Panel” to tears. Yet there are no laws written or inspired by these stories, no challenging the establishment and certainly no moving women to a “free” station. Once again, these women are exploited and humiliated, telling their stories behind a mask with no affect or change for their future or those of their daughters. No one cares or even wants to make things different for women, they want to “discuss” their plight or “understand” their torture.
Let me know when a show is taped depicting men who beat and rape women being taken down, handcuffed and thrown in the local jail for their crimes. That is a show that I would set to record on my TiVo.
“The trouble is that not enough people have come together with the firm determination to live the things which they say they believe.” – Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962).