RAWA Interview with some prostitutes
RAWA, June 2002
Among the outcomes of more than two decades of war and destruction in Afghanistan, especially in the last decade when the reign of terror of Jehadi fundamentalists and their brother-in-creed Taliban were prevailing over the sky of our country, prostitution among our widows is a tragedy that can never be forgotten. Unfortunately, as prostitution is illicit and secretive, there are no exact facts and figures to show the actual number of prostitutes. However, in keeping with the reports of RAWA members who are in touch with some of them, the number definitely exceeds thousands.
One of the projects of RAWA inside Afghanistan is to help the hundreds of thousands of miserable widows, some of whom have turned to prostitution and to rescue them from this filthy occupation. Fortunately, our members have succeeded in getting in touch with many of them and enrolling them in literacy and tailoring courses. Those women who are taking RAWA’s tailoring courses are given one sewing machine free, so that by using it they can stand on their own feet and come back from prostitution to the normal and honorable life which is the desire of every woman.
It is worth mentioning that in the past few months RAWA has distributed food to a number of these women.
In June 2002, two members of RAWA in Kabul interviewed around 60 women and recorded their conversation on video. Below we share a few translated parts of the videos. The pain and misery of most of these women are alike; the majority of them have lost their husbands at the hands of fundamentalists in the war and had no other way of life except to turn to prostitution. Their only desire is to find some sort of help and to return to a life worthy of human beings.
Your aid and support will give us the capability of rescuing even more of these helpless and oppressed women and saving the future of them and their children.
Due to request of those women who have been interviewed, we have censored their pictures and have used abbreviations instead of their full names.
MH: She is a widow around 33 years old. She lost her husband four years ago in the war and has six children who are between 4 to 14 years of age. She was crying as she said: "Because of my children I could not even commit suicide. For the last couple of months I have not paid rent on the house and every day the owner is threatening that he will evict us by force. I have not paid off the electricity bill yet, and make excuses every time the clerk comes for money.
During the regime of the Taliban, as there was no other way to make a living, I turned to prostitution. I was in contact with a Talib whose name was Sakhi Dad; he gave me ten lack (one lack=100,000) Afghanis (US$1=42,000 Afghanis) per week. However, six months ago, Sakhi Dad left Kabul and I am in great trouble. My only hope is to find a job. I regret being a prostitute but it was the hunger of my children that pushed me to this. My older daughter is in the fourth class and I have tried hard to keep her ignorant of these facts".
FA: She is a 35-year old widow with five children. She lost her husband in the war between the Taliban and the Wahdat Party in Dara Soaf. Her eyes were full of pain and sorrow and with her eleven year old daughter by her side she said: "My husband was a farmer; while he was working in the field the Taliban attacked, killed people and destroyed the farms. They killed my husband in his field, and destroyed our houses. They killed my brother-in-law in the same spot.
We came to Kabul. There was no other way to feed my five children except prostitution. My eleven-year old daughter knows about my contacts. I have arranged an engagement for her with a boy about whom I don't know much, so that she would not face what I am going through now. My husband's family is poor and can't help. I am shattered and very worried about the fate of my children.
NH: She looks about 35 years old. She is from Paghman Province. She is the mother of six children; her older daughter is eleven years old. She is saying: "I studied in school till the eighth class, but when I got married my husband did not allow me to study further. Two years after we got married my husband became addicted to drugs. He beat me daily and made life bitter for me. He wanted me to work and earn money to feed the children. When I was seven months pregnant he divorced me. I begged and washed clothes but that was not enough to fulfill our necessities. Nine months ago I turned to prostitution. I know that my life and my children's lives will be affected; if any one wants to help, I will leave this disgraced occupation without any hesitation.
FH: She says: "I am from Shamali. When the Taliban attacked our village, they destroyed everything. Everyone escaped to somewhere. The Taliban killed my father while he was working in the field. I moved to Kabul with my three children who are from three to seven years old. From that day my brother and husband are missing; perhaps they might be among the dead. In Kabul I was working as a servant in one of the houses from where I started prostituting. Nowadays I am in touch with a jeweler who gives me money when I visit him. I am suffering from stomach pain and do not like to have sexual relations with too many people.
RA: She is the mother of three children, the oldest one five years old. When I asked her age, she smiled and said: "I have forgotten my name and you are asking about my age; perhaps 21". She is also from Shamali and has almost the same story as "FH".
"I lost touch with my husband in Shamali. We escaped to Kabul, but on the way there, the Taliban separated men from women. My husband belonged to Panjsher and my guess is he might have been killed there. I was two months pregnant when we left our ruined village. I have been a prostitute for the last five months; there is a woman who guides me in this field. I have contact with a number of men who give me five to six lack Afghanis each week. My mother is a widow, too, but she doesn't know about what I am doing. I regret what I am doing but there is no other way out.
SH: I am from Panjsher valley but lived most of the time in Kabul. I had three children; two girls and one boy. I had a good life with my husband. But after seven years of togetherness my life took a new turn. Recently my two daughters died due to chickenpox. My husband blamed me for their deaths and used this as a pretext to leave me. He didn't take his son from me. I started this dirty business in the last few months.
I was living with my mother for some months but at last started begging. One day a shopkeeper made an offer and I accepted. Each week he gives me one and a half lack Afghanis. I don't know where he is from and whether he has a wife and children. I don't take any kind of pleasure in sexual relations with him, but it is forced on me. I used condoms to prevent getting pregnant, but in spite of that, I am four months pregnant now. My mother doesn't know any thing about my relationship with that man.
WH: I have been doing this for the last two years; I am widowed and must feed my children. I started with cooking and washing clothes but our condition was very bad. At last I got in touch with a woman who was a prostitute for a long time. She encouraged me to leave that hard job and do this business, which is full of money. My first reaction was to refuse, but later on, when our condition worsened, I accepted. When I did it for the first time, I felt very bad and cried for many days. I am in contact with a number of men who give me money. I have been forced to do this and feel no joy while doing it. I am taking pills to keep myself from becoming pregnant. I always fear letting anyone, including my children and neighbors, know about my relations. If the neighbors find out they will throw me out of this area.
I am very afraid of getting AIDS or any other sexual disease; that is why I do this only in time of need. I am in touch with many women who are doing this dirty business and all of them are widows. I know Jamila who was killed by one of the Taliban's commanders. She had a relationship with the commander but when he found out that she had relations with other men, he killed her.
AH: My husband divorced me five years ago. I gave birth to two daughters but he wanted a son. With two daughters I faced a lot of problems. I started with washing clothes but at the end fell into this net. I have been doing this for more than two years. I am in contact with a man who has a showroom and he gives me money in return for sexual relations. He has a family, wife and children. I am using pills to avoid conception and I am a heart patient as well.
My older daughter is 14. In order to keep her safe from these things, I arranged her marriage. But because of bad luck, her life is more bitter than mine. Her husband is young and inexperienced and he and his mother do very cruel things to her. My daughter usually comes to share her pain with me. She is now a teacher in a RAWA literacy course.
FA: I have two daughters and two sons. I am illiterate. My father died some years back, my mother is alive. I was very young when I got married. We lived in happiness for some years but then my husband went to Pakistan and did not return. My life took a shocking turn after the loss of my husband. I have a brother-in-law who is jobless, poor and a weak man. I started doing it [prostitution] three years back when I found no other way out. I had nothing, no food, and no clothes for four small children.
I first started this with the shopkeepers. They gave me food for free. Sometimes they gave me three or four lack Afghanis as well. They took me into many places, in a hotel for some hours or a vacant home. I am using the coil to prevent conception. My brother-in-law is unaware of all this. But, if he comes to know about it, he will not care because he cannot help. My brother usually comes home only at night for sleeping. He does not know anything about it either, because I am home at night. One of my children is weak and suffering from malnutrition. I took him to the hospital but it did not help.
AA: I am from Panjshir and living in the Saraji section of Kabul in a rented house. I am the mother of five children. I married one of my cousins who has been missing for the last two years. He was in Panjshir and worked with Taliban. Actually, Taliban captured him and did not kill him but rather forced him to work for them. I had another husband before this who was a Mullah and died due to illness. I have three children from him and one from my younger husband. I lived with my young children in one home but they forced me to leave as they could not bear my expenses. When I left that house, they fought among themselves. Finding no one to help me, I decided to go with this dirty business. Washing clothes and doing household chores for people was not enough. Whenever I go with someone, he gives me three or four lack Afghanis. I am still doing this twice or thrice a week.
SA: I am from Shakar Dara but have lived mostly in Kabul. My husband, who was from Saraei Khoja, lost his life three years ago when a rocket hit him and two of my children together. During the war we all had escaped the city to our village. We had a house there but Taliban burned that too.
After all these events (three years ago) I was left alone in this world with my two sons and one daughter, and I was forced to do this. My expenses were more then what I earned from clothes washing. I started begging at first. One day I went to a jeweler's shop to beg for money. The jeweler said: "what a pity! Begging is not worth your doing." He asked me why I am begging, and I told him that you don't know the pain which is crossing my heart. He said he wanted to take me to his house for washing clothes. The next day when I reached his home, when I entered his house nobody else was there and he locked the room and raped me forcibly. I could do nothing and he threatened me not to tell anybody and also gave me some money in return. I lost my honor, the only thing which I had left in my life.
Now, I am having contact with this man only. No one knows about this. His wife is a rich lady and often takes me to do household chores for her. I earn 8 to 10 lack Afghanis each month. God should not make any woman a widow. Nobody helps, neither kith nor kin.
I am using injection for contraception. I know the injection has its own side effects and that is why I am usually suffering from headaches. But, what should I do? Sometimes when I go to shops for begging, in order to pass the time shopkeepers will keep talking to me and give me a little more money. I am working for relatives as well, to feed my three orphan children.
GM: My husband is a driver and has been addicted to drugs for the last twenty years. I married 15 years ago. Actually one of my other cousins was supposed to marry my husband but she refused and my parents forced me to marry him. He is my cousin too. My husband, from the very first days of our marriage, mostly is out of the home. When he is home I usually find him nervous and in bad health. I have often asked my brother-in-law about my husband's addiction. I had three children, one died due to chicken pox and the other two due to pneumonia. Now I have only one daughter who is 9 years old.
I started doing this in 1989. My husband was asking me for money every time he needed it for drugs. One day he sold off my daughter to a stranger. Fortunately I saw the man taking my daughter and running away, and I chased him. Another man who was passing by witnessed the scene and caught the man. I got my daughter back. After that day, my daughter is very scared of her own father; she does not even want to see him. My husband says it does not matter to him how I earn money. In search of money sometimes even I go from Kabul to Panjshir. But I do take care to go to people who do not know me and are not relatives. My husband cannot live for a day without drugs and medicine. He is on his bed all the time like a small baby.
We are living with my sister-in-laws in the same house. Certainly, I do not want them to know about my relations and make different excuses when I leave the house. The men take me to strange places where I have never been before. I usually do this three or four times a week otherwise my husband will kick me out of his home.
HA: I am an orphan. My mother brought me up in a very good manner. I was able to go to school until class six in Kabul. My mother loved me very much. I had a happy and excellent life after my marriage. I am mother of two sons and one daughter. Then two years ago my husband got sick and died.
For one year I was able to earn my living in a very honorable way. But the situation becomes much tougher with the passage of time. Everyone forgot me. I was no longer able to feed my children. At last I began begging. A tailor by the name of Noor Ali (probably from Shamali valley) called me many times and promised to give me a good amount of money. At first I turned down his offers, but then later I accepted to go to him for money. He promised to give me money weekly or monthly. I am still having contact with this man but my children are unaware of it. I have my father and mother-in-law alive but they do not help me. I would like to become literate, learn something, and earn money through honorable ways.
RAWA report on Prostitution Under the Taliban