It was Friedrich Nietzsche that said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” I’m not surprised it was a man, because it seems the correct adage for a woman would be “That which does not kill us makes us weaker.” Case in point: Afghanistan. Last week, a 22 year-old mother of three was killed by her husband and his mother because she had only been able to produce girls and not boys. Violence against women in Afghanistan is brutal and predictable. In 2009, the government of Afghanistan implemented the Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAW) law at the urging of the Human Rights, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. According to the UN’s recent document, Harmful Traditional Practices and Implementation of the Law on Elimination of Violence against Women in Afghanistan, the law “criminalises child marriage, forced marriage, selling and buying women for the purpose or under the pretext of marriage, baad (giving away a woman or girl to settle a dispute), forced self-immolation and 17 other acts of violence against women including rape and beating.”
So, in addition to rape and beating, there are 15 other acts of violence that don’t even include forced marriage, child brides, baad or self-immolation.
The time has come for Afghanistan to produce a female warrior.
There are numerous examples through history of women who rose up in response to repeated degradation. My favorite is the story of the Trung sisters, Trac and Nhi. Some consider their story to be folklore, but I believe it is much more. Unlike other women warriors, the Trung sisters were not part of a royal dynasty trying to protect their inheritance. The sisters were born in rural North Vietnam to a military family. As they grew up, the Chinese army began their advancement through Vietnam, capturing towns and cities. Thi Sach, Trung Trac’s husband was brutally executed by the Chinese after he stood up to them. In 39 AD, after his death, the Trung sisters raised an army of 80,000 and trained 36 women to be generals. Within months, the army defeated the Chinese and liberated Vietnam.
Their victory would come to an end by 43 AD. According to Wikipedia, “Legend has it that the Chinese army did this by going into battle unclothed. The enemy’s brazenness so shamed the Vietnamese female warriors that they fled the battle scene, leaving the weakened forces easily defeated by the Chinese. Phung Thi Chinh, a pregnant noble lady, was the captain of a group of soldiers who were to protect the central flank of Nam Vi?t. She gave birth on the front line, and with her baby in one arm, and a sword in the other, continued to fight the battle.”
So they fought naked to “shame” the women. If there is ever a movie made of the Trung sisters, I want to be Phung Thi Chinh. If you’ve ever been in labor, it makes complete sense that she could continue to fight. In fact, I’m pretty sure those naked soldiers didn’t stand a chance.
Alas, the sisters were eventually defeated and they were said to have committed suicide to save their honor by drowning themselves in the Hát River. (I doubt it). Maybe that’s what the Chinese victors told the revolutionaries, but I think the sisters remained vigilant until their natural deaths.
Every February 6th, the sisters are honored in ceremonies and festivals.
So, to our sisters in Afghanistan, your GIRLFRIENDS will say a special prayer for you this February 6th in memory of the heroic Trung sisters. We are hoping that a woman warrior will rise up and give you the strength to believe in yourself as we believe in you. If the men in your country don’t want to give you the respect you deserve, perhaps it’s time to simply take it.