Before you read this you should keep in mind that these following events are the truth; I swear it on whatever higher being you wish me to. You should also know that my family is my rock, the publication of this is in no way to hurt them, with that said, you should also understand that I am in a tremendous amount of pain and this feels like the only way to cure myself of it. Whether that means the permanent damage of my relatives and other third parties, it doesn't matter to me, their actions should be known of and justified.
This is honour.
Since the beginning of time, a man has always been superior to a woman and a man will always get away with things a woman will be killed for. A man will be pardoned to hurt or even kill a woman if she's living in a way that he doesn't agree with especially in Muslim countries, like our own Pakistan, it has always been an issue that has expanded into the minds of all alike; and for them, it started as a religious issue that has now grown into a deep-rooted egotistic revolution. Over and over again, you see this brutality inflicted on women for living their own lives. The man hides behind the Holy Book, even though nowhere in the book is it allowed to force anything on anyone. Islam is so peacefully simple. You cannot hurt anyone who is not hurting you.
Too recently, one of our own was strangled to death by her brother for exposing herself publicly. This was Qandeel Baloch, a woman who came from nothing, that was murdered for nothing. This woman was forced into marriage as a teenager. She was threatened with acid and when she escaped, she had to leave her child behind to make something of herself. When she finally did, she was sending money back to the same family. The honor killing shocked women across the globe and even a year later, you don't see her brother given proper justice, you see praise for him. That is what's wrong. A man cannot be praised for hurting a woman, especially that woman of his own blood. Qandeel was in not killed for honor. She was killed because the prevalent misogynistic Pakistani culture stabilizes and protects a toxic masculinity. I am in no way comparing myself or her brother to my own situation, this is one of the trillions of examples that happen to women all over the world that should break your heart; the fact that it probably doesn't isn't okay.
I didn't always live in this patriarchal hell. I was born and raised in the States. The morals I have and the ideas that I believe in all stem from the life I lived there. I want to say that the problem arises when you realize you cannot be both Pakistani and American, but this is what I was. I was allowed to wear jeans and short dresses. I was an athlete; I was running and playing soccer competitively. I fit in as much as one could, considering my family would never let me be an American forever.
With that said, they did incorporate as much of the Pakistani lifestyle as they could. They spoke Urdu in the house with me. They took me to the local Islamic center every week. Every summer we'd go to Pakistan to spend time with family. As I look back now, I was an outcast in their eyes even then. I wore western clothing, I spoke fast and fluent English and unlike the others, I had freedom and an undeniable future that no one else had.
I remember one summer, the night before our flight back, my mother and my siblings went to visit my Dadi (paternal grandmother) to say our goodbyes. I was in a room playing with my two younger sisters when I felt something was wrong. It was that gut feeling, too strong to ignore. I walked out, saying I was getting a glass of water and as I walked by the stairs I could hear the screaming and yelling of my Dadi. I walked up and stood outside the door. I couldn't bring myself to open it so I just listened. I heard her abusive screams and her torturous yelling. The eleven-year-old me was crying silently listening to my mother being tortured, unable to stop it. She was blaring out the most obloquious insulting dialogue. I couldn't bear to hear any more. I went back down, dried my tears, got the glass of water and went back to my sisters. After a while, we were all together in the living room, waiting for our ride back. In front of us, my Dadi castigated my mother once more saying:
" If you were my daughter, I would not have left a single hair on your head."
For this entire episode, my mother was silent. She didn't fight back; she didn't even try to defend herself. Later on, I'd learn that the entire reason for the abuse was because my mom left the wrapper of a pad in the dustbin and didn't take the trash out. The house had 24/7 maids. My Dadi, for no reason, found a way to get to her. To this day, she brings it up and scorns her for it.
As our car approached, my Dadi lovingly held both of my sisters in each arm and admonished them to never come back because we were Ayesha's children. My sisters, too young to understand, smiled and agreed. We got back to the house where my mother went on to cry all night. The morning of our flight she cried and wouldn't eat. I remember my sisters were between her and me on the plane, all I could do was watch her tears fall silently as she was too petrified to scream it out herself. We landed in Atlanta that evening. As we approached baggage claim, my mother masked her face with happiness for the sake of all of us. Sadly, it was a mask my dad never saw past.
My paternal aunt, my Phuppo was a victim of the same abuse. She was tormented by her mother in law and husband so much so that she had to move out of the house. She lived with her mother and started studying again to sustain herself and her four children. Today, she's a well-known radiologist across Lahore. I used to look up to her in every aspect, she was the strongest woman I knew and for that reason, I was the closest to her than I was to my own mother. That's how much I loved her.
The irony begins after I moved to Lahore in the summer of 2015. No part of me was ready to go, I despised my family for it, I hated them, I didn't want anything to do with them and this is where I isolated myself from them; I became so alone. I did make friends at my new school, I was part of a clique and I fit in pretty well but inside, it was like I was crying all the time like my organs were giving out and instead of blood flowing, it was torn. The loneliness was intolerable and on top of that, my parents placed me in a completely different educational system, which was almost impossible to cope with. I don't know how I managed to do as good as I did in my exams; it was hell.
One afternoon as I was studying, a boy I had gotten into an argument the night before showed up at my house. He said he would make it up to me, but I never thought he'd show up the way he did, probably because he didn't mean anything to me. He walked in and demanded to see me. Although his intentions were good, I got him out of the house almost instantly. But it was too late, the maid had already told my Dadi and when my dad found out, he almost killed me.
Before this, I admired my dad. He was always very strict with me and I always remember fearing him as a kid more than loving him; probably due to the fact that he was rarely home, but as the top cardiologist of the town, it's understandable. He was saving the lives of strangers every day but he was breaking my heart and he didn't even know it.
On this particular incident, he slapped me repeatedly across the face so much, my ears rang. The ring stayed for a few days and it could only be compared to a bomb going off in your head. His Italian leather boots were exquisite and sharp in the way they kicked me to the ground. He kicked me like a madman and I honestly thought it would kill me. At the time, I questioned why it didn't. I couldn't walk without feeling it and even now, almost two years later, I have visible dents in my bones. I wasn't allowed to go to school, my dad said I would "stay at home and train to be a housewife".
This is an Interventional Cardiologist. A lifesaver to the world who almost murdered his own daughter. Ironically, it was his mother that stopped him from killing me. Even then I remember him telling me that if she didn’t, he would've never left me alive.
I confided in my Phuppo a lot during this time. She didn't know anything but she had been through so much, seeing her strong kept me strong. She showed up at my house one morning with photos she had found me online. More than anything she was concerned. But when the same photos resurfaced again, it was my 17th birthday and she came to the house and exploded. She went through my room herself before moving all my things down to my mother's room, forcing her to keep me with her. I had to bear it, it was the deal, she wouldn't tell my dad as long as I'd comply.
It didn't make a difference. About a month after that, I went with one of my girlfriends one morning for coffee. I didn't ask or tell anyone, I went from school in a taxi. When my dad found out, he beat me up again. The side of my face was bruised and once again, I couldn't go to school. I felt useless. I felt unloved. I felt like dying. I swallowed an entire bottle of pills and I cried myself to sleep, hoping that I wouldn't wake up. When I did, I was in so much agony. My body was wailing with agony, it was literally death without dying. My soul was excruciating with pain; it was so lost, I had become so lost.
As time moved on, I tried to fake it, I tried to do well in school, I knew that would be my only way out. My Phuppo came to my house again almost 3 months ago. This time she was infuriated because my Dadi's sister showed her those same old photos. My Phuppo beat me up in front of my siblings and my mother. She beat me up with her shoes and the slurs she was roaring still replay in my head. I turned myself off, I wasn't responding, and because I wasn't, my Dadi was encouraging the abuse saying
"She's not crying, keep beating her up until she cries so she feels ashamed"
When she let me go, I packed my bags, called a taxi, and I ran.
I had no idea where I was going to go, I had no one I wanted to tell and I had no one I could trust. I found a friend but that night, I couldn't sleep. I stared at myself in the mirror, unable to recognize myself. It was as if my soul, my body, and my mind were strangers to each other. It was the most horrifying experience, your heart knows that you're losing yourself but it can't do anything except cry. So I kept crying, I cried until I physically couldn’t. The next morning, I went to another friends house. At this point, my family knew I ran and they were looking, telling people I left over an argument. My dad was in Italy, he wouldn't be back for another day or so and I knew that when he found out, he'd physically kill me as if I wasn't already dead.
I went to my Mami (wife of maternal uncle). When I told her what really happened, she cried. She took me to her house where she inspected me all over, shocked at what my Phuppo had done. Even though I refused to see her, my mother came to visit me while I was there. She took me home a few days later. I was more detached from myself than I had ever been. My dad was being as nice as he could, but the damage had already been done.
Today, I don't talk to my Phuppo. She's at my house almost every day and mentally, it triggers me, but there's nothing I can do. I don't have a relationship with my dad; I can't stand my mom for allowing everything to happen. I'm more alone than I was when I first came here. You could say that I did it to myself, that I'm going into a downward spiral and that I deserved it, but my heart aches. My head hurts. I don't understand the tradition. My Phuppo went through abuse, and ironically enough it was her inflicting it on me. It's become a cycle in their minds. How is a girl to associate love with her family after going through something like that? Am I expected to treat my daughter the same way? Is this really how it's supposed to be?
I gave myself some time before I began to write this. I didn't want to sound like I was doing it for revenge, I believe that will come to them in its own form. I want a solution. I want to understand why they believe violence on women is so necessary. This is not Islam; this is pure culture and confided misogynistic thinking. This believing that violence is a solution and maybe this is why our region is viewed by the outside world as terrorists. Our men who hurt women are terrorists. Our women who are hurting each other are terrorists. Our families who hurt us are terrorists. It is mental and physical torture that leaves a lasting impact on the rest of the victim’s life.
I believe that honor comes from your character, how you treat people, what you believe in and what you stand for. I stand for women. I stand for their broken hearts and broken souls. This is where the cycle ends and the war begins. This is honour.