“I came back to life.” This is the word of an Afghan Pashtun woman who used to live in the very tribal area of Afghanistan, where women are not allowed to receive formal education, neither to have social life with other women rather than the women within the circle of their own tribe.
And, I was asked to rush to the therapist office in the Center for Survivor to interpret for such a woman who speaks no English nor Dari, and the only dialogue that she knew was Pashtu. As soon as I got there to my surprise, I found her on the floor of the room while shaking all over, and was groaning. The therapist was anxious; not exactly know what to do. Obviously, she had a seizer attack. The therapist tried hard to bring her back, patting on her checks slightly and was calling her name: Patigul, Patigul, wake up, are you OK?
After a moment of silence, Patigul became awake. She collected herself back. She was in her mid forties, wrapping herself with a huge shawl, and had her traditional clothes on. She looked gloomy, sad, depress. The lines of pain and agony could be read on her face easily: the lines of depression, domestic violence, disrespect, pain, and a lot more. She spoke very softly, that I was not able to hear her.
I interpreted her therapist saying to her word by word: What happened? Are you ok? What can we do for you?
She stared at me and then to the therapist with astonishment, and pulled the edge of her shawl to cover her tattoo’s blue dots, which were placed on her chain and forehead. By her therapist’s instruction she took a deep breath, and with her soft voice said: “Can you remove these ugly dots from my face?”
I expected her to talk about her seizer attack or her family problems or other social troubles; but to my surprise, she was talking about the removal of those four blue dots on her chain and four other on her forehead. Was it really something important about that that we didn’t know? Was there any secrecy laid beyond those tattoos dots.
Fortunately, the therapist seemingly had the same questions that I had, and with her high skill, she started digging her to find the why. After several minutes we found out that her in-laws had forced those tattoo dots on her face after a week of her marriage. And since then whenever she sees herself in the mirror, those tattoo’s dots would bring the old memories of persecution, beating, insulting, and pain back to her mind that would ended up with seizer attack. That consequently put her on her bed for 2 to 3 days. So, the tattoos’ dots would recall her the troublesome day that her husband was out for work, and her mother, and sister in-law forced her to have those tattoos dots.
Those dots were not simply the tribal fashion that I thought; rather it was the sign of ownership of the in-laws. As she recalled, after that day, Patigul understood that she had not married her husband alone; there were several other people that also had her ownership. And she had to obey them and to serve them as merely a servant. Patigul, on her 18 years of age had never learned about this bitter fact that women were dealing with. No wonder that her gut always derive her away from that fashion.
Now that she was in the United States, the first jubilee of her live that she wants to celebrate, was her freedom, and before doing anything else, she wanted to remove those ugly tattoos off of her forehead.
The Center for Survival helped her to do so. She is now free, not only from the memory of those dots, but free from untold slavery, free from the ownership of the whole tribal system and regulation. Now, she belonged only to her husband and her children. There were no elder or boss to monitor her life anymore. What a pleasant and refreshing feeling is the feeling of being free. And freedom is God. And Patigul was enjoying that feeling of freedom in her life for the first time.
After counseling, and throwing herself with the care, and love of the Center for Survival, she realized her gradual healing, for every month her seizer attacks were decreasing in number. Excitedly, she admitted one day that she has not gotten that seizer for month, while she was getting every month four of them. The evil of that periodic seizer attack was not able to paralyze her motherhood anymore. The seizer was not able to throw her in her bed for several days and would shut her life off. Patigul, was free from that evil and her family was not suffering from her diagnoses anymore.
In a few years of her involvement with the Center, she was getting better and better. She decided to learn English, and I couldn’t imagine seeing her with no level of education, was able to pass her citizenship test. Couldn’t ever imagine to see her one day leading her family very wisely. Freedom is the most precious gift that we ever have. When she looks back at her past life, she is amazed by the transforming power of fellowship and partnership that is able to save a life. She repeatedly says: “I was dead, but I am alive now, I cam back to life.” And many thanks for those precious souls that by their obedient to heavenly calls, are able to resurrect the life of the dead.
By: Homa Zafer