I must confess that initially it was a sense of lingering guilt that made me buy Batul Moradi’s book “Ghadf”. I met her seven years ago, standing bruised in front of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, soon after her ex-husband had beaten her up and snatched her six year old son. The commission wouldn’t help so we all went to the police station nearby. I don’t remember what happened there as I left to be home.
Next day I went to Paghman for a picnic, and saw her ex-husband. He looked jolly, chatting with colleagues. The snatched child sat in the car. I had always imagined that in a situation like that I would leap and grab the kid and return him to his mother, or at least say something challenging. But I didn’t, I sat in my car, with my scarf around my head maintaining the air of respectability that my social status required. We had oxtail and spinach stew that day, sitting in the cool breeze of a private Paghman garden, but a sense of guilt and inability to do something made everything taste bitter.
In her book Moradi chronicles her fight in the labyrinth of the Afghan court system. She fights on several fronts, central is her Ghadf case, which intends to clear her name from accusation of adultery and punish her ex-husband for libel. She pushes for DNA test to prove her innocence, a first in Afghan legal history. She fights to keep her children’s custody beyond the 7 years mothers are entitled to under Sharia law. She fights for her mehr and child maintenance. She also attempts to get justice for violence.
The Sharia law rules around divorce, child custody and maintenance favour men and create an environment where misogyny breeds. Moradi is educated, intelligent, saintly patient and has a determined group of family and friends around her, which enable her to fight her cases for years on end. An ordinary Afghan woman has no chance going beyond the first hurdle faced with challenges similar to Moradi’s, be it in Afghan courts or the UK based Sharia courts. Women that fight for Sharia courts to decide on child custody and divorce in the UK must read this book and see how implementation of laws skewed in men’s favour can harm, specially in societies where secular legal system to fall back on does not exist.
As she goes about fighting her cases, Moradi tells stories of every day sexism in the Afghan society, be it street harassment, solicitations at places of work or down right sexual assaults. Her sharp wit make reading these stories tolerable.
Discussing Moradi’s book with other Afghans has highlighted something terribly scary in my community, which is the unconditional support of men and absolute vilification of women. In last seven years, every time Moradi is mentioned in my presence, she is slandered as a whore and a fraud meanwhile her extremely well linked husband is supported as a victim. The support that men give to each other in the Afghan society (beyond class, ethnic and other divides), as they go about supressing women is unconditional. This shows that every Afghan woman is only one unamicable divorce away from going through what Moradi went through.
Despite the subject matter of the book, Moradi doesn’t come across as a victim. She is a complete person, engaging cleverly with world affairs, creating and appreciating art and, most important of all, an amazing mother to her two sons. I laughed out loud reading how she negotiates her identity as an Iranian born Afghan, full of energy, critical of dogma as she brings her sons up in Kabul. Moradi’s voice breaks the dichotomy of Afghan women as either victims or survivors.
Moradi writes beautifully, creating vivid pictures and evoking emotions (I already love her sons), using very few words. This book is one of the best that I have read by Afghan women, or anyone for that matter.
The book is self-published and can be bought at app Kodo.
If you would like to read this book in English please write to me.