Apr 25, 2010

Public sexual harassment in Kabul

A woman who recently went to Kabul for the first time has often posted on her facebook about public sexual harassment on the streets of Kabul. To be honest, sexual harassment is quiet common in Muslim countries where women are restricted not to have public appearance. But, specifically, in the Afghan culture and society which is extremely religious and traditional, public sexual harassment is not only common but people enjoy if they harass women either by their looks or words. Even in less conservative city like Kabul, women are facing intimidation and regular sexual assault on a daily bases . But when it comes to school girls they are often victimized by male carrying knifes and acid.

In 2009, the Ministry of Education has reported that within eight months, 138 students and teachers have died and 172 have been wounded in criminal and terror attacks. About 651 schools have closed and another 122 school buildings have been blown up or burned down. Based on United Nations Population Fund in Afghanistan (UNFPA), about 31% of Afghan women suffer physical violence and another 30% suffer from psychological violence.

Nevertheless, she (who requested that her name to be removed) has written this sentence on her facebook wall that made me to laugh:
“I called a harasser on a motorbike "mordagow" and he almost crashed into a sewer. AWESOME.”

It is uncommon to respond back to a harasser on the streets of Kabul. First, Afghan women don’t have that courage to call on harasser “mordagow” because of predominantly male oppression. Second, because public harassment is so pervasive in Afghan society that women are used to it.

The word “mordagow” is Farsi (Dari/persian) word which is only used among Afghan Farsi speakers. The word that panicked the harasser means “cuckold”; a married man with an adulterous wife.