All names in this real story are unreal.
Basir, who lived with his extended family in a little village 20 KM outside Jalalabad city, raped his sister-in-law. The victim, Shinkai, finally told her husband and the rest of her in-laws at home after spending two long days going over it in her head. She shared it with them so that they would punish Basir for his unforgivable crime. Nobody in the family believed her and everybody thought that she was making up the whole story.
Everybody in the family looked at her as a troublemaker and they all started treating her badly. She didn’t want to go to the police because that would’ve publicized it, everybody would’ve found out about it and that would’ve degraded the family’s honor.
Feeling very distressed and extremely embarrassed by seeing Basir at home every day and the rest of the family treating her inhumanely, Shinkazi thought it was time she shared the story with her own parents and her crazy brothers back home in the nearby village. She told her parents and brothers that something had been bothering her very much lately and she asked them not to use emotions and instead help her out. Shinkai’s brothers blew their top and went directly to her husband, Jawed, and warned him to do something about it or he might be sorry. He didn’t do anything immediately about this since he wanted to involve the rest of the family. It’s not clear why the family didn’t investigate more.
Shinkazi’s brothers warned Jawed a number of times and asked him to do something about their sister’s rape (I am not sure what they meant by “do something” but I am assuming they wanted him to kill his brother). Her brothers waited for about one month to see Basir punished for his crime. Basir’s family looked at this story as a conspiracy and gave Shinkai and her brothers the cold shoulder, one of Shinkai’s brothers, Crazy Rahim, thought that it was time for him do something about it. It was noon and the men of the village were at work, including Basir himself. All women were at home. Rahim, filled with anger and disappointment, went to Basir’s house with a vicious intent of raping his sister. By raping Basir’s sister, he thought they would be even. He locked all the women in one room and took Basir’s sister, Gulshan, into another room in the back with him and locked the room from behind.
Gulshan was a single innocent young girl. When a woman loses her virginity in Afghanistan and people find out then no men will marry her. Her image has been tainted. In a rape case, the rapist and the victim are killed because they bring shame to their families. That’s part of the reason why many women would keep it to themselves and never tell anybody – the unbearably harsh truth.
Time for Basir to Move and Retaliate
When Gulshan’s brothers came from work in the evening and found out about her, they were very agitated and started brainstorming a plan for an immediate retaliation. They were quiet the following day and moved to a secret place when it was night. They moved under the cover of darkness to a secret place so that nobody could see them. All of the family members also left the village and went into hiding, Gulshan’s two brothers came back to their village the following day with a Russian AK47 and a rusty Pakistani pistol. Both brothers knew were Rahim worked and went directly there. They found Rahim, pulled him out of his taxi and threw him on the ground. Basir shot him with his pistol one time but it jammed. Then Jawed, Shinkai’s husband, shot him 30 times with his AK47. They hi-fived in the little bazaar outside Jalalabad and then escaped back to their secret sanctuary.
Where Is this Secret Place?
When Basir and Jawed killed Rahim they already had a permanent sanctuary in mind. Basir went to the Taliban and told them their heroic story and how they defended their honor. Impressed by their story, the Taliban accepted the free lunch offered by Basir and Jawed with a very warm welcome. They gave them extra weapons and promised them a “lifetime” of protection. Basir’s family had to leave everything behind including their land, hometown, relatives and friends. The story gets even worse. God only knows what will happen to the two brothers and their family when they are in the real Taliban “hi-five” games.
Law and Order Vs Pashtoonwali and Honor
Why didn’t any of them refer to the law or government? That’s a good question and the explanation is a little complicated.
In our society, if our honor has been violated it is not common to press charges because this is considered cowardly and weak. That’s where Pashtoonwali comes in. Pashtoonwali is the state of being Pashtoon and a Pashtoon is considered strong and powerful. If someone tries to seek justice through the government, this is considered degrading to their Pashtoonwali, honor and image among other Pashtoons. Using your own power and taking revenge is preferred by most people here. Using a third party (in this case the government) to defend your honor and to protect yourself is a sign of weakness. This is true for almost 100% of the cases in rural areas.
Reconciliation Jirga: Another Option
Another option for resolving conflict disputes in the community is through a Jirga. Community leaders and elders get together as mediators and they come up with what they think is a workable agreement for both sides. [m. Both sides directly affected, choose their mediators called Jirgamars and give them full authority to make the decision. Neither side can talk to each other face to face because they get emotional and cannot agree easily.] The Jirgamars usually ask for something called Machalgha which is a huge amount of money that both sides temporarily leave with the mediators who have full authority and will represent them. [m. This money will remain with the mediators until the end of the Jirga and the result which will solidify their authority. If a side does not agree with the decision then they lose their money and it goes to the mediators. It’s such a huge amount for the villagers that people have to borrow from one another which makes the situation even worse. Regardless of the final decision at the Jirga both sides will have to agree so that they can get their money back.]
Sometimes these so called reconciliation Jirgas make irrational decisions, like ordering each family to give girls (for marriage) or call on both sides to swap daughters. The Jirga thinks that these compensatory marriages will create stronger ties between the families but a lot of the times these innocent women are treated like after their marriage. A Jirga does not usually solve problems because some people will still take revenge even after a Jirga.
My Experience with a Jirga
I was about 17 years old when I got stabbed four times in the back near our neighborhood. I am not going to go into detail of how and why but in the future at some point I might. To make a long story short, I was hospitalized for ten days and I got nine stitches and some ugly scars on my back but luckily no internal damage. Everybody came to our home to ask about my health. To add insult to injury, most of my visitors would “advise” me and my family to take revenge and kill Gaddaffi, the guy who had stabbed me. “We are with you”, they would say. My visitors would usually bring fruit. One distant relative came and brought me a bag of fruit in one hand and an AK47 in the other. “I want you to shoot him with this gun”, he said.
My family decided to go to the police. After the police investigation they sentenced him with 3 years of prison for intended murder. Since Gaddaffi was in high school and he was almost my age at the time, my dad didn’t want him to be in jail and not go to school for three years. My father went to the local court with a bunch of elders from our town and forgave him. The judge asked us to do a Jirga and come to an agreement signed by both families. We did do a small Jirga and agreed that we would never try to harm their family. Later, many relatives and friends were upset with us for not having listened to them. Had we gone with the traditional form of revenge, only God knows where I would be, who would be exploiting my family now or if we would still be alive at all.
By Hameed Tasal