A distant voice reached our ears, ‘Freeze you promiscuous libertine!’
When we looked back, we realized he meant me, I was shocked and petrified. As soon as he came close, left and right slapped me a few times on my head and face. My glasses fell on the ground and I couldn’t see clear anymore. Definitely Fatima was scared the hell too.
There was always a hidden fear of the Taliban in all of us, even in the hearts of those who had never seen one or did not know what kind of a creature they are and even in the hearts of those who were born as immigrants outside of Afghanistan; because everyone at least had heard a frightening story about them.
The story I had heard was that men and women would be stopped in the streets and alleys and each was placed a few meters apart and asked their names and the names of their parents. If the answers were not the same, you wish you had never been born; then both of you would be stoned to death in accusation of fornication. This very fear was so intense that even a boy could not go to market with his mother so she could buy the necessary groceries and the boy would carry them back home; even if the mother had become an elderly weak woman with white hair. Even if it was proven that you two were mother and son or husband and wife, at first, you should be slapped a few times and if you were from Hazara ethnic group, you were slapped more and humiliated for you ethnicity.
About 6 months had passed since the fall of the previous government and the Taliban coming back to power and this horror had cast a shadow in everyone’s hearts. As time passed and by going out to bazaar and the city either individually or with my family, this fear had almost faded away because I haven’t had seen the Taliban stopping 2 opposite sex and asking what their relationship is and that they prove it.
One day, my mother’s step-aunt knew I’d completed the English course and that I know about computers; asked my mother so I would go to Nader Pashtun Street along with her daughter, Fatima, to help her choose a laptop to buy so she could continue her studies online. She came to our house alone and together we went to Nader Pashtun Street where there are several computer stores.
We got off the car at the last station and walked towards the beginning of the Nader Pashtun Avenue. Because she knew the way, walked ahead and I walked behind until I reached her and we walked shoulder to shoulder. We went close to the computer market and nothing had happened so far and since I did not know the area, I was a little distracted. Suddenly, I heard a furious loud voice from behind saying, “Freeze you promiscuous libertine!” my mother’s step-cousin and I looked back and we realized that he meant me. I was shocked and petrified. As soon as he came close, left and right slapped me a few times on my head and face. My glasses fell on the ground and I could not see clear anymore. Definitely Fatima was scared the hell too.
“Enter the shop!” He said. And I obeyed out of fear, I picked up my glasses from the floor and entered the nearby shop, he slapped me a few more times and said, “Sit on a stool.” And I sat down.
“You go, you are not required here.” He said to Fatima, but she did not obey him and also entered the shop.
I looked at the Talib and asked, “What have I done Mullah Sahib” [Sahib means sir] “You are a procure,” he slapped me and answered, “A whoremaster. Circulating the prostitute around the city and rent her out. You are a shameless promiscuous libertine man!”
“I’m not Mullah sahib!” I replied. And he slapped me more and I burst into tears.
“Then tell me your name along with your parents’ as well as the girl’s name and her parents’” he continued, “And I’ll ask her too and you wish you’d never been born if your answers wouldn’t be the same.” He said this and guided Fatima outside the shop and in a few steps away, asked her some questions but I couldn’t hear them. Then, he entered the shop again and apparently asked me the same questions.
In the traditional and closed society of Afghanistan, it is a shame to know the names of the female members of a family, especially their mother’s; even the close relatives do not know the female members’ names of each other. This shame is not bound to women only and is also true about the elderly men. As a result, I used to call the parents of Fatima uncle and aunt and due to not maintaining a close relationship with them, I didn’t know their names and it was this morning that I asked Fatima’s name and learned it.
“What’s your name?” he asked me. “Ahmad” I replied.
“What are your parents’ names?” he asked and I answered.
“What’s her name?” he asked. “Fatima” I replied.
“What are her parents’ names?” he asked.
“It’s a shame to know their names and I call them uncle and aunt.” I answered.
“You’re a promiscuous and whoremaster. All day long with your female relatives you circle the city and you rent her out.” slapped me more very hard and I couldn’t hold my tears while he was saying these.
As it turns out, Fatima knew my parents’ names and that’s what saved my life. The Talib continued, “If the girl didn’t know your parents’ names, I would’ve detained you.” Goes on and adds, “On your feet, get out. You go this way and you go that way. If you go from the direction the girl is going, I’ll shoot you.”
I got up and walked for 5 minutes in the direction he told me to go, then my mother called me and gave me Fatima’s number and told me to call her. Apparently, Fatima had called my mother and asked that I call her because I didn’t have her number – this is another shame in this society that cousins of the opposite sex should not have each other’s number – I called her and she told me to come to ‘Sediq Omar’ market. When I got there, Fatima comforted me. We bought the laptop and came back to our house so I could set and update the software and after finishing the work, Fatima went back to her house.
I didn’t say anything but Fatima told my mother everything and on that night, I cried in my mother’s arms.
Ravi is the pseudonym of a reporter for VOC News.