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A Letter to My Harasser

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. This had happened to me more than once, but this time I felt more embarrassed because the old man noticed.

I ran after you and grasped 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 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 anybody else can 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

This piece was published on Safe World for Women's website first.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Ending Violence Against Women Digital Action Campaign.

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 »

Comments

Leina's picture

This is a very captivating

This is a very captivating piece dear sister!I admire your courage in standing for your rights.No one has the right to deter the freedom of another,we were all created free and equal.The freedom was given by God and the chains by man.Anything put by man can be undone!We are all mere humans.I am proud of you!

Nakinti's picture

Thanks Noor...

My dear,
I admire your courage and power to speak out against chauvinistic and recalcitrant men.
Leina already said every piece of what I had to say...
Its time we stand up for ourselves and grab our rights.
Keep the fight
May Allah bless you.

Nakinti B. Nofuru
2013 VOF Correspondent
Reporter for Global Press Institute
Bamenda - Cameroon
Email: nakinti@globalpressinstitute.org
nakintin@yahoo.com

goddess30's picture

Dear Noorjahan

It is great to read about your courage to open your mouth and raise your voice to speak about an act that should not have happened. You are right: your place is everywhere in the world- whereever you want it to be, whomever you want to become. No man-individual or government- can ever tell you different. Especially not any man who does not have courage to self reflect at his own actions! All the better and braver for you to be speaking in a world that still does not seem to recognise woman as a strong, independent and powerful human being.
Stay strong and keep your voice

Annika- UK

Sita Ranchod-Nilsson's picture

Your courage inspires me

I applaud your courage on so many levels Noorjahan. Your courage to call out the man who violated you and the courage to share your story publicly. Women all over the world are subject to this degrading treatment and I hope that your willingness to speak out will encourage others to do so. Thank you.

Sita

Sita Ranchod-Nilsson
Atlanta

cece's picture

Your Brave

Thank you for sharing what happened. I am so proud of you that you stood up for what you thought was right and you didn't back down, congratulations!

Love

Cece

We are blessed to have many Sisters!

Cece

Shilpa Balakrishnan's picture

Appreciate you for your

Appreciate you for your courage to tell this to the world. Thank you.Even i had seen these types of scenes and it also happened to me. Keep fighting sister. We all are there with you.....
Love

Shilpa

Sarah Whitten-Grigsby's picture

Dear Noorjahan!

Dear Noorjahan,

Your letter is powerful and astonishing. You have expressed yourself with such dignity and strength, I applaud you.

Whereas I, too, might not have wished for your harasser to be beaten and humiliated, it seems likely that he will learn a lesson from that (?) and perhaps think twice about treating a woman that way again. Or perhaps not, but at least he won't forget.

In our current culture in the United States, where I live, it is hard for us to fathom the backward, antiquated, barbaric way men treat women in various other cultures. However, that's not to say that men in our country never treat women as lesser beings; they do, but less overtly and certainly less frequently. One wonders why, when women are so clearly superior in many crucial ways, men still don't get it, or choose not to accept it. Needless to say, men who pinch the bottoms of women they don't know are cowards, fearful of their own

You have accomplished an excellent thing in getting your magnificent letter out into the world to be read. In so doing, you have no doubt provided support to other women who have been wanting to stand up and shout, and will now do so because of the excellent example you have set.

So, Noorjahan, may that idiotic man never pinch another women, and may you thrive and continue to shout whenever you are mistreated so grotesquely. You are a strong voice for change and we are listening!

With Respect and Loving Support,

Sarah

Lea's picture

Amazing!

Dear Noorjahan,
Thank you very much for writing such a powerful piece. I had goosebumps after having read your truly inspiring letter. I really applaud you for speaking out and letting that man know that his behavior was inacceptable and hurtful. You showed immense courage and your words really resonated in myself.
I completely agree that that man did not deserve to be beaten, but he needed to understand that treating a woman in such a disrespectful and disgraceful way is absolutely shameful. You did the right thing in letting him know how you felt.
Thank you for sharing!
Lea

Sutanuka Banerjee's picture

May the strength always be

May the strength be with you always

I live in my convoluted mind....

Sudaba Parnian's picture

Dear Noorjahan!

Thank you for sharing your bravery. I applaud for you and each and every brave woman in Afghanistan. I have faced same situation too, after this I will use my strength too. I admire your power. May God bless us all!

Love,

Sudaba Parnian

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