PAKISTAN: I Will Keep Resisting Harassment

After two harrowing experiences, Aysh vows to stand up against violence.

I will keep resisting this culture that wants to bind a girl to sit behind closed doors and allows boys to dominate everywhere.

My name is Aysh.

I am a middle class girl from Pakistan. I am going to tell you a real life story about two incidents that happened to me. One was some time ago; the other happened just yesterday.

For nine years, I have been traveling first to school and then to work on my own in local vans and rickshaws in my city. I have faced two instances of harassment. They were different events, and yet, they have had the same impact on my mind.

Last year, I was being harassed by an unknown mobile number. He made me crazy by following my office routine, my personal life, and my online activity—my official email ID and my Facebook account. I blocked the almost 15 numbers he used to try to contact me, but he kept changing them. He disturbed me in every way possible, and I finally lost my patience. I made an official complaint on the helpline on cyber crimes from the Federal Investigation Agency Pakistan. They made one warning call to him, and he apologized to me and never contacted me again. Filing that complaint was the best thing I did in my life.

I am still shivering from the harassment I experienced yesterday, in a different way. It was near 4:00 in the afternoon, and I was leaving the office. I had to walk for almost 10 minutes to reach the rickshaw stand, due to construction.

As I was walking, a man in a grey colored car passed by very near to me. He was so close that he splattered mud on my shawl. Still, I ignored him and kept walking. Then, I took a rickshaw. As I was sitting in the back seat, the same man waved his right hand at me and began to send flying kisses towards me. I continued to ignore him, but he kept following me in the rickshaw.

There was a lady sitting with me. She looked at me with doubt, as she thought that I was this man’s girlfriend. She started in on her so-called “cultural values” lecture. She said that she had been doing a job in a hospital since she was 13 years old, and she never did anything to break the trust of her family.

I was so hurt. And yet, I said nothing to her. Instead, I waved the back of my right shoe towards the car. The woman became shocked when I did this, and fell silent. I did this not to irritate the guy who was harassing me, but to satisfy the woman sitting with me.

The man felt insulted, and he started to follow me in his car with increased speed. The rickshaw stopped at a petrol pump that happened to be near the university where I got my degree.

While we were stopped, the man made a warning sign to me by raising his finger. He was conveying to me that I had insulted him, and he would take revenge. The first thing that came to my mind was that this could result in rape, as it is a grave thing in my culture to challenge a man’s ego.

I was very scared, and I decided to leave that rickshaw. I screamed, “Stop in front of the university. Stop right now!” After paying the fare, I crossed two roads almost running.

After I entered the school, I found I was shivering and crying and full of sweat. I told the guard that a guy was following me, and I came to the university because I felt it a safe place. This guard was so worried, and he brought me water, and then went to look for the man. He couldn’t find him. He gave me a chair and his phone to call home, as I was out of balance on mine.

I called my cousin and through tears asked him to come pick me up. He came immediately and took me home.

After I reached home, I couldn’t shake the fear. I still can’t. I felt like a young girl. When I saw the warning sign from him, all my bravery went away in a second. I’m still traumatized, and I am still thinking about what could have happened if I hadn’t left the rickshaw. As the elder sibling, I have to do my job to support myself and my family.

I pay all my bills; I harm no one; I spread peace and love and work hard for a successful career. I want a normal life. But these incidents scare me and leave me depressed and really discouraged.

But I will not sit idle at home after facing this harassment. I believe that after some time, I will escape this mental pain and be stronger as “there are no lessons in life but learning.”

I will not leave my job, and I will not hire a private van. I will keep doing it the way I was doing it. I will keep resisting this culture that wants to bind a girl to sit behind closed doors and allows boys to dominate everywhere.

But there are two questions on my mind.

As women, why don’t we support each other when these incidents happen? I waved the shoe at the man to let the woman next to me know that this guy was not my boyfriend. The whole incident would have been different if she had shown me support while I was being harassed. I would have felt encouraged, supported, and safe.

Secondly, what kind of satisfaction does a man feel when he harasses a girl? Why is his ego so big that he feels okay waving his hands and sending kisses to a girl he does not know, but when that girl responds negatively, he feels he must take revenge to prove he is a man?

We must start teaching our girls to support each other. Bullying other girls is not good character.

And we must teach our boys to behave. Harassing girls will not make them more man.


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Comments

wow snigdha g why you think that in pakistan coming out to protest against harassment is like changing world view?yes ofcourse because only pakistan can change the whole world view as pakistan want.

Danial Samdani

Thanks Aysh for sharing your story.I am sorry you had to go through this and I am glad you didnt stop your work because of this.Women should learn how to provide counseling to each other during such circumstances.Thanks for breaking the silence

Aysh you are a gem a hero you held your head up high in this traumatic situation Please know you follow in the footsteps of some of the bravest women in the world Who decided that enough was enough no more harassment from men on and off he streets  Well done you stood up for your self respect

Women we need education to change our attitudes and reclaim respect from all people men women boys and girls

When i read your story i can't stop my tears and many times i saw these kind of harassment in everywhere but i can't stop that people because i have no power to use their,means that i am in category of low status people and harassers are high status people.if you will keep resisting harassment then we r with you always my dear and inshALLAH we will stop harassment.

Danial Samdani

Dear Aysh,

I can imagine how you feel. I felt so encouraged you chose to move on. Its takes heroines like you to conquer. We truly need each other in this fight. Thank you

You did what that woman should have done with her right shoe, to encourage you to show that women stick together when harassment is around. The way you did was the best thing ever to seek protection and leave that bad guy in doubt of what he did. This may help other women/girls that he won't do this again, I admire what you did and the way of acting against this perpetrator of terror against females, they have all rights, at least they believe they have, until he meets someone like you, you showed him back of your shoe then he felt how it feels to be a victim of revenge. My Love to you Aysh your my Heroine against harassment in Pakistan. We have to show were all against it, as women/girls and show how we stick together in all the world.

I paid attention to the word "harassment" because it can also became a complete lie used against the need. A college student (Catholic nun) lived in my house with her first time in life a place of freedom and independence. But after a few weeks, her uncle (a US Army priest) forced her out to another house where she sent me messages about her treatment and always wanted to return to my house. "Why does the man here only come to my room when his wife is asleep?"

Then because of the power and money her "mean uncle" had, and to prevent her knowing about any other religion, this young lady was forced to sign a paper that I was harassing her. She sent me a message about that, just before being completely blocked from communication with me. Then with this statement when I took another student to college I was arrested and put in jail. It was 28 days before I could even speak with a lawyer. There is no evidence that I did anything wrong, but I continue on probation and the county taking my money so I cannot even by enough food. I also missed other people, mostly older ladies who call me for help.

So who was really harassed?  If I had the money I would hire a lawyer to sue the college and the entire county from what it cost me while all I was doing is helping other people!