Friday, March 31, 2006

Child Bride

I could not believe this story when I read it. My heart is weeping. I guess it puts everything into perspective. The petty little bullshit that we have to deal with is so minute compared to the suffering of many; War, loss of children, homeless, terminal, weather ravaged, abused, molested, raped, beaten, murdered, tortured and the list goes on and on. This was an amazing article and has transformed my thinking. I am not going to sweat the little stuff anymore. Love me, hate me, like me, envy me, feel sorry for me, despise me, talk about me, whisper about me and write about me...It is all fine with me and more power to you. I will no longer worry about everyone, because I now choose to give my energy to the positive people in my life, the negative ones do not matter to me and they do not exist in my eyes. I have to be thankful and appreciative for my life. I have to be me and I will not change for anyone. I will most definitely work on being a better person for my family and myself. I have the perfect life for me. Although it is ONLY perfect to me and would definitely not be perfect for anyone else. I have to appreciate what I have and pray for those who are less fortunate. My children are healthy and safe. They have food and shelter. They have guidance and love. Nothing else matters!!!!!! I am off to read this story to my children.

Wishing everyone an absolutely fantastic weekend filled with family, friends, love and fun!!!!

This beautiful 12 year old with big brown hope filled eyes, lovely smile and hopefully a future was married at the age of 4, please read this story about this beautiful young girl.

Married at the age of four, an Afghan girl was subjected to years of beatings and torture, finally escaping to discover that within all the world's cruelty, there is also some kindness.
KABUL,
Afghanistan' name=c1> SEARCHNews News Photos Images Web' name=c3> Afghanistan - Eleven-year old Gulsoma lay in a heap on the ground in front of her father-in-law. He told her that if she didn't find a missing watch by the next morning he would kill her. He almost had already.
Enraged about the missing watch, Gulsoma's father-in-law had beaten her repeatedly with a stick. She was bleeding from wounds all over her body and her right arm and right foot had been broken.
She knew at that moment that if she didn't get away, he would make good on his promise to kill her. * * *
When I meet her at the Ministry of Women's Affairs I'm surprised that the little girl, now 12, is the same one that had endured such horrible suffering. She is wearing a red baseball cap and an orange scarf. She has beautiful brown eyes and a full and animated smile. She takes one of my hands in both of hers and greets me warmly, without any hint of shyness.
"She looks healthy," says Haroon, my friend and translator. I nod. But she looks older than her years, we both agree. In orphanages — first in Kandahar, then in Kabul — she has had a year to recover from a lifetime's worth of unimaginable imprisonment, deprivation and torture.
In one of the ministry's offices she sits in a straight-backed wooden chair and tells us the story of her life so far. She is stoic for the most part, pausing only a few times to wipe her eyes and nose with her scarf.
Her story begins in the village of Mullah Allam Akhound, near Kandahar.
"When I was three years old my father died, and after a year my mother married again, but her second husband didn't want me," says Gulsoma. "So my mother gave me away in a promise of marriage to our neighbor's oldest son, who was thirty."
"They had a ceremony in which I was placed on a horse [which is traditional in Afghanistan] and given to the man."
Because she was still a child, the marriage was not expected to be sexually consummated. But within a year, Gulsoma learned that so much else would be required of her that she would become a virtual slave in the household.
At the age of five, she was forced to take care of not only her "husband" but also his parents and all 12 of their other children as well. Though nearly the entire family participated in the abuse, her father-in-law, she says, was the cruelest.
"My father-in-law asked me to do everything — laundry, the household chores — and the only time I was able to sleep in the house was when they had guests over," she says. "Other than that I would have to sleep outside on a piece of carpet without even any blankets. In the summer it was okay. But in the winter a neighbor would come over and give me a blanket, and sometimes some food."
When she couldn't keep up with the workload, Gulsoma says, she was beaten constantly.
Gulsoma's scars
"They beat me with electric wires," she says, "mostly on the legs. My father-in-law told his other children to do it that way so the injuries would be hidden. He said to them, 'break her bones, but don't hit her on the face.'"
There were even times when the family's abuse of Gulsoma transcended the bounds of the most wanton, sadistic cruelty, as on the occasions when they used her as a human tabletop, forcing her to lie on her stomach then cutting their food on her bare back.
Gulsoma says the family had one boy her age, named Atiqullah, who refused to take part in her torture.
"He would sneak me food sometimes and when my mother-in-law told him to find a stick to beat me, he would come back say he couldn't find one," she says. "He would try to stop the others sometimes. He would say 'she is my sister, and this is sinful.' Sometimes I think about him and wish he could be here and I wish I could have him as my brother."
One evening, Gulsoma says, when her father-in-law saw the neighbor giving her food and a blanket, he took them away and beat her mercilessly. Then, she says, he locked her in a shed for two months.
"I would be kept there all day," she says, "then at night they would let me go the bathroom and I would be fed one time each day. Most of the time it was only bread and sometimes some beans."
She says every day she was locked in the shed, she wished and prayed that her parents would come and take her away. Then she would remember that her father was dead and her mother was gone.
But Gulsoma had an inner strength even her father-in-law couldn't comprehend.
"When he came to the shed he kept asking me, 'Why don't you die? I imprisoned you, I give you less food, but still you don't die.'"
But it wasn't for lack of trying. Gulsoma said when her father-in-law finally let her out of the shed, he bound her hands behind her back and beat her unconscious. She says he revived her by pouring a tea thermos filling with scalding water over her head and her back.
"It was so painful," she says, dabbing her eyes with her scarf and sniffling for a moment. "I was crying and screaming the entire time."
Five days later, she says, her father in law gave her a vicious beating when his daughter's wristwatch went missing.
"He thought I stole it," she says, "and he beat me all over my body with his stick. He broke my arm and my foot. He said if I didn't find it by the next day, he would kill me."
* * *
Gulsoma found hope after escaping
She crawled away that night and hid under a rickshaw. When the rickshaw driver found Gulsoma, broken and bleeding, he listened to her story and took her to the police. She was hospitalized immediately.
"The doctor at the hospital who treated me said, 'I wish I could take you to the village square and show all the people what happened to you, so no one would ever do something like this again,'" Gulsoma says.
It took her a full month to recover from her last beating. But the fear and psychological trauma may never go away.
"I was happy to have a bed and food at the hospital," she says. "But I was thinking that when I get better they will give me back to the family."
However, Gulsoma says when the police questioned the family, the father-in-law lied and tried to tell them she had epilepsy and had fallen down and hurt herself. But the neighbor who had helped Gulsoma confirmed the story of her beatings and torture.
The police arrested her father-in-law and "husband." They told her, she says, they would keep them in jail unless she asked for their release.
"Everyone was crying when they heard my story," Gulsoma says. Gulsoma says she stayed at an orphanage in Kandahar, but was the only girl in the facility. Eventually, her story was brought to the attention of the Ministry of Women's Affairs.
The toll of torture
Gulsoma was then brought to a Kabul orphanage, where she lives today. She takes off her baseball cap and shows us a bald spot, almost like a medieval monk's tonsure, on the crown of her head where she was scalded.
She then turns her back and raises her shirt to reveal a sad map of scar tissue and keloids from cuts, bruises and the boiling water.
Haroon and I look at each other with disbelief. Her life's tragic story is etched upon her back.
Yet she continues to smile. She doesn't ask for pity. She seems more concerned about us as she reads the shock on our faces.
"I feel better now," she says. "I have friends at the orphanage. But every night I'm still afraid the family will come here and pick me up."
Gulsoma also says that when the sun goes down, she sometimes begins to shiver involuntarily — a reaction to the seven years of sleeping outdoors, sometimes in the bitter cold of the desert night.
She says she believes there are other girls like her in Kandahar, maybe elsewhere in Afghanistan, and that she wants to study human rights and one day go back to help them.
As we walk outside to take some pictures, I ask her if, after all she's been through, she thinks it will be harder to trust, to believe that there are actually good people in the world.
"No," she says, quickly.
"I didn't expect anyone would help me but God. I was really surprised that there were also nice people: the neighbor, the rickshaw driver, the police," she says. "I pray for those who helped release me."
Looking directly into the camera, she smiles as if nothing bad had ever happened to her in her entire life.
"I think that all people are good people," she says, "except for those that hurt me."
SUPPORT GULSOMA
The Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone team has set up an email account so that messages of support can be retrieved and forwarded to Gulsoma via a local organization. Click here to email your message.
To learn more about how you can help Gulsoma and other children in need in Afghanistan, click here.
CHILDREN RESPOND
A number of children Gulsoma's age posted messages of support for her. Read the comments here.

11 Comments:

At 4/01/2006, Blogger alan said...

I have heard stories like this one before (I listen to way too much NPR for my own good). Everytime the tears start to flow, my heart crawls up into my throat, and I wonder

"How can one human being do this to another?"

Thank you for sharing this girls story and the links you inserted!

alan

 
At 4/01/2006, Blogger Mr. Fabulous said...

Wow.

Just...wow.

 
At 4/01/2006, Anonymous xmichra said...

Every time I hear something like this .. I don't know what gets inside of me, it's this big feeling of pain and rage and sorrow. i can't describe it really... but I know what it is. And I couldn't fathom what this life has done to that little girl... or any of the kids, women, men... any who have been so mistreated by other men, women and children.

This is not human nature. This is monsterous.

I hope that you do find your inner peace, and sheild away the negative influences in your life Cherish. I wish that more than anything for everyone.

 
At 4/01/2006, Blogger Still Searching... said...

I don't even know what to say. That is true evil.

Her spirit, her will to live... awe inspiring to say the least.

 
At 4/02/2006, Blogger boo said...

the saddest & most horrific story. thanks for sharing sweets. i'm humbled & thankful for my life {{hugs}}

 
At 4/02/2006, Blogger Jim C said...

Great post. All the freedoms we take for granted in the US become more pronounced when reading thisng like this...

 
At 4/02/2006, Blogger cherish said...

Alan: I normally will not read or watch the news on television. I just have such a hard time with reality. I think they are not human they are monsters.

Mr. Fabulous: AGREES!!!!

XMichra: It is such a sick feeling and one of total disbelief. I read this story over and over again. Because I think our minds will not allow us to compute such actions. I just kept looking at her little face. What a damn SIN!! I want to write to her and encourage her. I can not because I just do not know what to say to her. Shes in an orphange and her future is undetermined. I wish I had another room in my house I would love to take her and let her be 12. Spoil her and hopefully help her understand that not everyone in this world is horrible.
Thank you XMichra!! I have found my inner peace... It is awesome to only focus on the positive people in my life. There is no sense whatsoever to worry over negative forces. Although yesterday I almost killed two 13 year olds!! hehehe

Still Searching: I agree with so completely! There is always someone in this world that has it worse. The sad thing is there is are people out there that have it worse than her. I thought my childhood sucked for the most part, the only positive thing was my brother and mother. Then I met my husband and he had it so rough. My life was charmed compared to him then we met our next door neighbor, who was sexually abused by his father. Anal and oral sex!!! Like I said there is always someone who had it worse!!

Boo: HUGGS tight thank you smiles!

JimC: Absolutely!!! That is why I read the story to my children. I think they need to be aware of what is going on other parts of the world.

Thank you everyone!! This was an emotional story and I had to share it.

 
At 4/03/2006, Blogger Top cat said...

wow...what a sad and touching story.
The horrible things that people are capable make me sick and angry.
Thank goodness she was able to escape and get help.
tc

 
At 4/12/2006, Blogger barefoot_mistress said...

What a survival story...so glad you shared it with us.

 
At 4/12/2006, Blogger cherish said...

TC: I agree it is horrible. I can not believe what people are capable of doing to other humans!

Barefoot Mistress: You are very welcome! Thank you for stopping by and commenting on my blog!

 
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