Get our free emagazine!


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: Breaking the Cycle

Once an abuser himself, Ali Shahidy is now an ally for women and an outspoken advocate against gender-based violence in his homeland.

"Men are blind and need to be healed. Women’s mouths are sealed and those seals must be broken."

Gender violence plagues Afghanistan and my family is no exception. The patriarchal structure of our culture makes it rampant. The pervasive silence makes it everlasting. The pain of gender violence is a nightmare that haunts many Afghan families. My most tragic childhood memories are ignited every time my dad raises his voice in a violent way. The fear of seeing my mom beaten in front of my eyes incites panic. I was raised in a culture of violence. War was only part of it.

I wasn’t only the son of a victim and an abuser. I became an abuser. The cycle of abuse continued as I began to beat my sisters and harass girls in the street. I used to restrict my sisters’ mobility, their appearance, their associations, and more. Afghan customs taught me that the honor of my family was more important than the physical and psychological wellbeing of my sisters. I made vulgar comments and gazed salaciously at random girls in the street. I was following accepted cultural norms without shame.

During the same time, my younger sister, Roya, was forced to abandon school and marry against her will. She became another victim of domestic violence in her wretched and abusive marriage. Living in Iran, her life was a silent prison of suffering and pain. Her husband beat her during her pregnancy, threatened their infant son with a knife, and tortured her on a regular basis. His drug addiction fueled his rage. The scars on her hands and her drastic weight loss were the only things that spoke of her horror. Like my mom and many other Afghan women, Roya quietly and dutifully accepted her fate.

When we learned about the five years of Roya’s suffering, we immediately took action. To rescue her, we were confronted with torrents of challenges—financial difficulties, distance, laws that maintain gender norms, social stigma, and relatives who opposed and condemned us. These obstacles made me realize how wrong and devastating our culture was. It was the first time I studied about women’s rights. I had to fight with Mullahs and our elders. I had to struggle with practices, beliefs, and values that filled my life since birth. When Roya’s husband discovered our plans, the intensity of his violence escalated. Concerns about Roya’s safety filled my thoughts at work, at home, and during my studies. Her life was in danger and I was her only hope.

I doubled my efforts, saved more money, learned more about women’s rights, and gained the assistance of more friends. Finally, we brought Roya and her baby home. She was safe… and my world view had changed forever.

Reading and studying more about the plight of Afghan women, I realized that gender discrimination and inequality are wrongly ingrained in our culture. Everywhere I went I saw women like Roya—women quietly accepting their fate. I knew I had a responsibility to fight for their rights and rescue them from their prisons. All women should have the same freedom as my sisters. Women should not be viewed as servants, property, or sexual commodities. Men are blind and need to be healed. Women’s mouths are sealed and those seals must be broken. Violence is not a woman’s fate.

I am strongly involved in advocacy work and fighting for women’s rights. I am a vocal opponent of violence against women. I actively support victims and encourage people to talk about violence. Through speeches, global digital action campaigns, public awareness events, community discussions, and more, I am encouraging people to break the cycle of violence. Step-by-step, I am removing barricades and changing men’s views towards women. Through tears and determination, my sisters and I changed our fate. We broke the cycle of abuse in our family.

Together, men and women will stand hand-in-hand, raise their voices, and challenge the dominant and parochial beliefs of our culture. Together we will end violence against women.


Zoepiliafas's picture

Thank you for your honesty


Thank you for your honesty. It is difficult to own our poor choices even more difficult to take steps to change. You have taken the steps to change even further by becoming an ally of support for the women in your country and internationally.

Your statement: "Together, men and women will stand hand-in-hand, raise their voices, and challenge the dominant and parochial beliefs of our culture. Together we will end violence against women." Is the only way we can change violence against women and gender equality.

It saddens me to realize the beautiful minds wasted because of a lack of opportunity for women to thrive academically, socially and beyond. But it also gives me hope to learn that someone that can candidly divulge that this was in fact part other their cultural upbringing can change their mindset.

Continue changing the mindsets of your brothers and sisters internationally by taking a stand.

Zoe Piliafas

Voices of Our Future Community Manager
World Pulse

mystika802's picture

Thank you for sharing your

Thank you for sharing your story. It is with men like you helping to bring voice to the voiceless, that we will begin to see change.

Wendyiscalm's picture


Hi Ali,

You are an amazingly gifted writer and soul. Thank you for baring your soul in order to make change.

Wendy Stebbins

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

Dear Ali,

Thanks for sharing your story, I must say that you are a source of inspiration for all those women who think that they can never make men understand about their rights. Your life story made me sad, but bravo to you that you did a great job in dealing with the problems. Women suffer alot due to violence, but their suffering can only reach to an end, when men acknowledge their suffering and help the to over come. You are an honest person.

At some point I lose hope that we can never over come this problem; however, when I look at people like you, then I get hope and encouragement.

Keep up your good work,

Fatima Sabri

bhavna's picture


Dear Ali,

It's my proud privilege to be associated with a forum which instills hope in us, making us believe this world has a prospect of better future for the oppressed and neglected half , by bringing up stories from the people like you, who have taken up a cause for us, your sisters. Thank you so much for sharing and inspiring other men towards the plight of a woman. So rightly said, violence is not woman's fate!

Keep going on and enlightening other.


Noreen D.'s picture

Gender Equality

Dear All,

Not only are you brave and couregeous for telling your story to the world, but you seem to be part of the new generation of enlightened men. I know it will take time, for you have thousands of years of culture to overcome, but every time a man such as yourself comes forward into the light, you are one step closer to a solution. Thank you.

Noreen Donohue

Magazine »

Read global coverage through women's eyes

Inside Congo's Growing Sisterhood

Inside Congo's Growing Sisterhood

Community »

Connect with women on the ground worldwide

PAKISTAN: They Went to School and Never Came Back

PAKISTAN: They Went to School and Never Came Back

Campaigns »

Be heard at influential forums

WWW: Women Weave the Web

WWW: Women Weave the Web

Programs »

Help us train women citizen journalists

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

Blog »

Read the latest from World Pulse headquarters

Announcing Our Prize Winners!

Announcing Our Prize Winners!

Partners »

Join forces with our wide network of partners

Nobel Women's Initiative

Nobel Women's Initiative