Painful Past Makes Afghan Woman Return With More Strength

Published July 12th, 2021 - 09:29 GMT
Shakila Zareen
Shakila Zareen (Instagram)
"I feel I am not alone anymore," says Shakila Zareen.
Last year official numbers confirmed 3,500 cases of violence against women.

By Ewelina Lepionko

Afghanistan is a country with very little respect for women's rights and the situation of women there is among the worst in the world.

Shakila Zareen, 25, is one of the rare survivors. She was forced into child marriage when she was 17. A former, child bride and child laborer, Zareen’s life changed in an instant. She survived a gunshot wound to her head after complaining to local police about the abuse she suffered from her husband. 

Her powerful story of pain, loss, and resilience transformed her into a strong advocate for gender equality.

Now she is using her voice to advocate for other women as she recovers.

Along with her mother and sister, Zareen came to Canada at the start of 2018 and began to rebuild their lives. Her experience includes extensive surgery to help with her horrific injuries and meet with high-level politicians to discuss the plight of refugees and young women who suffered similar abuse.

I had very tough childchood. I don't remember if I ever smiled when I was a child I was tortured and beaten up by my brothers.

Shakila shares her courageous story and talks about her fight to end violence and injustice against women.  

Shakila Zareen keeps photos by her bed, including one of herself before the attack. She says it's to remind herself 'what I was, and what I am today.' Now that she's in Canada, Zareen says she feels safe enough to show her injuries in public. Previously, she kept her face covered when she went out.
Tina Lovgreen/CBC

According to a 2006 report by Human Rights Watch, 85% of Afghan women experience physical, psychological violence or are forced to marry. About 2,000 Afghan women try to kill themselves each year.

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a number of governments tried to improve the situation of women by reducing restrictions on their rights. Most of these efforts have been unsuccessful due to the strong patriarchal tradition in Afghan communities.

The Taliban, during their rule in 1996-2001, took away from women most of the rights they previously enjoyed. Women were forbidden to work, study, go outside without a husband or relative, use the doctor's services, and enjoy entertainment. The war started by the Americans in the fall of 2001 deprived the Taliban of power and also contributed to the liberation of Afghan women. 

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