Baad-An Essay by an Afghan Woman

by Salma

Fatima was playing with her friend and cousin in her grandfather’s lovely flower-covered garden.  As she caught sight of many older villagers entering the house, she thought that her father must be throwing a party.  She had no idea that her family was busy making the most important decision of her young life.

At just 14 years old, Fatima was a very pretty and innocent girl with beautiful eyes.  What Fatima did not know was that her brother had ruined her life.  He had killed a neighbor’s son, and Fatima would pay the price.  The villagers had decided Fatima would have to marry Jan Mohammed, a man who was thirty years older.  She was to pay for the price of baad, an Afghan tribal tradition that involved giving a victim’s family a member-usually a girl-of the offending family.

When Fatima’s family told her the news, she cried a lot.  She knew she was a victim of her brother’s crime and she did not have a choice.  If she refused to marry Jan Mohammed, then her brother or other family member would be killed.  This would continue until all were killed.  Fatima hoped she would get lucky.  Sometimes in the case of baad, in-laws can be nice.  Most of the time, though, new brides were treated as servants.

On her wedding day, despite the fact that Fatima was a beautiful bride, she was sad and worried about her future.  But to her surprise, Fatima found Jan Muhammad’s family was very nice to her. Jan Muhammad was smitten by Fatima’s beauty and fell in love with her.  Soon Fatima returned Jan Muhammad’s feelings and fell in love with him too. After a year of marriage, a baby was born.  Fatima’s new family was very happy that they had their first grandson.  They named him Ahmad.  Ahmad was as handsome as Fatima was beautiful.

But Fatima’s happiness with her new baby and family was to be interrupted.  One night in a bombing, Fatima lost her family-her brother, sister, father and mother all died.  What saved her from complete sadness was Ahmad, watching him grow and learn new things day by day.  Ahmad kept her busy.

When Ahmad was three years old, Fatima’s second child Lila was born.  Lila had beautiful blue eyes and blond curly hair.  Fatima’s sadness over the loss of her family receded as she was loved by her children and husband.

One day during the time of the Taliban, Jan Muhammad left the house for his work.  That was the last day of his life. The Taliban killed him.

Fatima cried with her in-laws at the loss of her husband and their son.  But her in-laws were so upset they told Fatima this was her fault.  She was bad luck.  She had married their son because they had lost another son.  They told Fatima that she was in their house because of baad.  So they told Fatima they never wanted to see her again.  She was to leave with her children and never return.

Fatima was a 19-year-old woman with a five-year-old son and a year-old daughter.  She had no place to go.  She went to her uncle’s house and asked him for help.  Her uncle took her in, but Fatima soon found out he had plans for her.

Fatima’s uncle found a man who would buy Fatima but not her children, because he did not want his family to know that Fatima had previously married and her children were not part of the deal, Fatima fell into a deep depression. She begged and pleaded with her uncle.  She did not want to be married again.  She could not live without her children.  But her uncle had taken the money and did not want to give it back.

Twice, Fatima tried to kill herself, but did not succeed either time.

As Fatima’s desolation deepened, her uncle’s family held many discussions and decided that they would adopt Ahmad.  This was a monetary decision.  In two years, Ahmad would be seven years old and would be able to work on the street and make money for them.

But no one wanted Lila. She was a girl and considered useless, too young to work and too young to sell for marriage. 

Finally Lila was sold to someone from a European country as an adoption.  As Fatima was separated from her children, she cried and screamed.  No one listened to her voice.

Pabot, Susannah E., comp. The Sky Is a Nest of Swallows. First ed. Belleville, 2012.
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