Tuesday, 11 September 2012

For the love of a son, A mother suffers

Jean Sasson’s latest book is titled For the Love of a Son, and narrates the travails of an Afghan woman who had to lose the love of her son due to the hegemonic domination of her husband. After years of violent treatment at his hand, Maryam Totakhail’s son was rudely wrested from her, kidnapped and taken away to Afghanistan, where his father brainwashed him against her. Maryam’s story is the exposition of a survivor of every kind of violence – mental, physical and economical. And yet, Maryam is resilient – resilient not by force, but resilient by choice. She spared a few minutes in a conversation with Deltawomen, and spoke of her life, her sons, and her dreams.

1. Your life has been so tumultuous, especially in the early years. What gives you the courage to face adversity in the eye?
I guess it is my sense of humour that is my beacon of light. The biggest part of it was that as I was growing up as a child, I talked, and walked like boy. Acting like a man, I tended to feel stronger – because that is the mentality that my society was led to believe. I believe I was the reason for my courage, always, because I blocked my pain, and blocked my obstacles out – and took each challenge as it came.
Maryam Totakhail

2. There is so much literature about how women in Afghanistan have suffered under the yoke of the Taliban's regime. Could you tell us something about your life in Afghanistan? Your childhood, your growing years- was it heavily encumbered by the antagonistic ways of the Taliban?
It is true that women have been treated as second class citizens in Kabul. Before the Taliban, they were educated women and education brought some freedom for them. What the Taliban did was to implement tribal traditions on all Afghan women. As a result, women in Kabul suffered a lot. I grew up in Kabul, at a time when women wore modern clothes, had jobs – of course, with the painful precondition that all this was possible only if the man of her house allowed her to do that. One of our close relatives was educated, and even had a job outside of her house. Despite that, she didn't have the freedom that a western woman has. Her husband took a second wife, and wouldn’t let his wife see a male doctor – and most recently, he married again! This shows you how women in Afghanistan have little power or rights.

3. What is your dream for your country?

1 – Peace
2 – Peace
3 – Equality  
4. Is there a possibility for Afghanistan to rise above this turmoil? What do you believe would be the remedy to the trauma the country has been put through?
I believe there is. Peace will bring the cure for the wounds. I believe that Education of women will help Afghanistan rise out of this turmoil. That, and a change in the attitude towards women.

5. There is plenty of talk about how the world has misinterpreted Afghanistan, that the world should just leave Afghanistan alone and respect its sovereignty. Is that viable for Afghanistan? Is it politically pragmatic to leave the country at the mercy of warlords and undefined leadership?
Unfortunately, No. If the Supreme invaders leave Afghanistan now, that will bring the rootless gangsters – or as you call them, warlords – to the position of power they need to destroy the sovereignty. The country needs at least ten more years of American involvement to help govern it.
6. Women in Afghanistan have been described as being subservient to their men, taking their mistreatment and instances of Domestic Violence as just a part of life, and something they can do nothing about. Do you believe this is still true? What do you think is necessary for the Afghan woman, for her empowerment?
The mistreatment of Afghan women is still happening in Afghanistan as we speak. An Afghan woman gets punished even if she was raped. A rape victim is at fault – the mentality in Afghanistan is that the crime was hers, even if she was the victim. Afghan prisons are packed with woman who have been raped, or have run away from abusive husbands or have been sold by their own family, for a few thousand Afghanis.  The only cure for subservience is education. Education will make a woman aware of her rights, and make her independent. With education, a woman can handle her life and  protect her dignity.

7. What are your thoughts on the way Afghanistan is being handled globally?
Afghanistan is a military base.  But slowly, progress is coming to the torn worn country.
I'm optimistic for the future of Afghanistan. We are getting slowly to overcome the obstacles. Just that the situation relating to women – it could, and should be so much better!

8. Are you in touch with your first son? Does he know that a book has been brought out? Is he willing to see the truth?
Before the book was out, my son was in touch with me regularly. After the book was out, he seems to be unhappy. Sadly, I have very little contact with him.

Written by Kirthi Jayakumar

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