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This story is part of World Pulse’s Campaign to End Violence Against Women. These testimonies, along with hundreds of others, were delivered to the fifty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring an end to gender-based violence. The EVAW Campaign elicits powerful content from women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as vocal grassroots leaders, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.

Learn more about the campaign.

AFGHANISTAN: A Letter to My Harasser

Harassed in the streets of Afghanistan, Noorjahan Akbar fights back.

"Not you, not the Taliban, not this government, not my brother or mother, nor can anybody else convince me that I am less than a man."

Hello sir,

I do not know your name, but you passed by me a week after Eid-ul-Fetr in the Bazaar in Kabul. You might remember me. I was the young woman wearing a white scarf and a long red embroidered tunic with dark pants. I was standing by a vegetable stand and bargaining the price of fresh mint when you passed me and nonchalantly pinched my bottom. I turned red. The old man who was selling vegetables noticed but didn’t say anything. He probably sees this every day.

I ran after you and grabbed your wrist. Scared and sweating I started yelling, “Why did you do that? How dare you? Do you do this at home to your family members too?” and you started yelling back louder, “You crazy woman! I haven’t done anything. You are not worth doing anything to.”

I was still ashamed to tell people what you had done. You probably remember how everyone was watching us. Other women advised me to keep calm, that this would only ruin my reputation, but I wasn’t going to give up now. I started yelling. Soon the police arrived and took us both to the station.

A tall man in uniform asked me what had happened. I told him. You opened your mouth and the police officer yelled, “You, shut up!” Next thing I knew he was beating you. You were on the floor and he was kicking you with his gigantic shoes. Sweat was dripping off his thick eyebrows. He must have been as angry as I was.

I didn’t see you again, but the friend who was walking with you followed me all the way home. He told me, “What is the big deal?! It is not like he f***ked you.” But I was too tired for a second fight that day.

You and your friend probably both claim to be Muslims. You probably even pray at the mosque every Friday or more often. You probably tell your wives that they should not get out of the house because the world out there is filled with horrible men who will disgrace them. You probably even believe that you had a right to touching my bottom because you think a “good” woman would never be out on the streets without a man. Your sisters are “good.” They stay at home when you pressure them to. If I were a “good woman” I would do the same. These streets belong to men.

I am writing this letter to tell you that I never intended for you to get beaten and humiliated, but I am not sorry for speaking out. I am writing to tell you that I know what you are up to. You want to threaten me, scare me, and keep me shut at home where I will learn to tend to many children and cook food for your kind and be submissive to a man that might someday marry me. You want me to be terrified of the world outside and to not find my way and my place in it. You want me to believe that the only safe and “decent” place for me is in the kitchen and the bedroom. But I am writing you to tell you that
I am not buying that ever again. Not you, not the Taliban, not this government, not my brother or mother, nor can anybody else convince me that I am less than a man, that I cannot protect myself, that I cannot be what I want to, and that the best life for me is in a “safe” kitchen where a man or a mother-in-law has control over my every move. I am not buying that. Not ever again.

I will come out of the home every day and walk bravely down the streets of my city, not because I need to, but because I can. And neither your harassment or sexual assault nor an oppressive government will ever be able to take that ability from me again.

With Defiance,

A Woman You Harassed

Comments

Zoepiliafas's picture

Not buying it either

Thank you for giving voice to your experiences. I stand on Portland OR beside you. I am not buying that your place is in the home either. Your courage to venture out in the street and challenge the status quo take courage. I believe that women like you will change the future of your nation. Keep writing on World Pulse. We are listening and you are not alone.

Not buying it,

Zoe

Zoe Piliafas

Voices of Our Future Community Manager
World Pulse

Wendyiscalm's picture

Hi Noorjahan

Hi Noorjahan,

I have read your article and am in awe with who you are. You are more than an inspiration, you are a beacon of light for us all to follow. Your courage, feistiness and insistence that you will rise and make a difference makes me examine what I do and want to stretch to be more. You are the best. You are not and have never been less than a man, as you referenced. You are the highest of what it means to be a soul having a human experience.

Thank you so much.

Ubuntu (I am who I am because of who we are together),

Wendy Stebbins

Wendy Stebbins
Founder/CEO
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Fatima Sabri's picture

Bravo to you Noorjahan

Dear Noorjahan,

I read your story in another website, but I don't know in which website. So, from the time I read your story, I wanted to congratulate you for being so courageous. I know that whatever you did was not an easy at all, so you should be proud of yourself as we are proud of you. There are lots of women/girls who are victims of sexual harassment everyday, but they never raise their voices. However, in order to put an end into the cultura of harassing women on streets, we need to speak up. So, you did a great job.

Enough of being silent and thinking about what others will think when we raise our voices. You did an excellent job, and as an Afghan girl I am proud of you and would like to thank you for breaking the norm of silence.

Best,

Fatima Sabri

Dinah Atai's picture

wooow!!

This feels so great!! I pray to live in a world where all women can stand up tall in the faces of men like you did.
I am proud of you.

Best of luck.
Dinah.

William's picture

Women's freedom

Dear Noorjahan, Good for you. Indeed men think that if they bully you enough you will be controlled and out of their hair. Your decision and story about it is exactly why World Pulse was created and now read by thousands of people, liberated men included. Keep pushing and eventually things will change. New laws have already been installed in many countries for protecting women, so change is starting. Keep posting at World Pulse, so we can cheer you on and clap for your success. blessings, William (father of three daughters).

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