“I’m the woman who has awoken

I have found my path and will never return.”

-Meena, founding leader of RAWA

* * *

Three young girls huddle in a corner of a dilapidated home crying, endlessly. They struggle to convince themselves that they are just having a nightmare and their mother is not dead.

But, only too soon, the reality hits them hard ¯ just weeks ago, their mother was shot to death before their eyes by the Taliban, an extreme fundamentalist militia that has been wreaking havoc in Afghanistan since 1996.

And they cry. For the death of their mother, for their uncertain future.

* * *

I could almost hear my heart break as I read each account and looked at each photo posted on the website of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA). I have never known or seen such disturbing scenes of oppression and inhumanity.

The plight of the women in Afghanistan goes beyond miserable. Extreme restrictions imposed by the Taliban have reduced their living conditions to a virtual hell.

In accordance with the Taliban’s fanatical interpretation of Islamic norms, Afghan women need to hide their bodies (and their miseries) in a burqua, a thick shroud covering the whole body with only a mesh opening for the eyes. They have to move very carefully because the slightest exposure of skin, accidental or not, can trigger an angry mob to stone them to death.

Their lives are at the mercy of their male relatives who can accuse them of a crime that never happened or have them arrested at the slightest excuse.

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Whether or not they are actually proven guilty, women are beaten and stoned at the Taliban’s whim. They are also executed in full view of the public, who either enjoy watching the gruesome spectacle or look on helplessly, unable to protest such barbarism. One photo in the website showed a Taliban soldier mercilessly shooting a woman in a football stadium in front of her own children.

To curtail “over-employment,” the Taliban also banned women from working. Since they are left with no other source of income, most of them are forced to beg in the streets to support their children. Some of them engage in prostitution while some are left wasting away, starving, homeless, and insane.

Due to their degrading circumstances, most Afghan women consider death as the best and less painful escape from a life that has ceased to be humane. Suicide rates in Afghanistan has skyrocketed since 1996.

* * *

While browsing through the site, I came across a poem written by Meena, the founder of RAWA.

Established in 1977, RAWA aims to involve women in the fight to establish a democratic and secular government in Afghanistan. The organization seeks to uplift the conditions of Afghan women while it fights for human rights and social justice. It also documents and exposes the heinous crimes committed by the Taliban. And, right now, it seems that the RAWA is the only glimmer of hope in the Afghan women’s desperate lives.

Translated from Persian, the poem “I’ll never return” serves as the creed of all women who refuse to be defeated by oppression. Instead of wasting away, the women are encouraged by Meena to rise against such injustice and fight for their rights. Even if it means risking their own lives.

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A staunch opponent of fundamentalists, Meena was assassinated in 1987. And she died fighting.

* * *

I have risen from the ashes, I have found my path. And I know I’ll never return. This time, I am thankful that I’m walking this path with you.

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