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Burqa Babes in the Big House

Romeo and Juliet in Kabul. women who commit "moral crimes" find an unexpected safe house. Dr. Phyllis Chesler - Pajamas [caption id="attachment_10906" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Children marrage"]Children marrageChildren marrage[/caption] Forced, arranged marriage is a heartbreaking and soul-crushing Islamic reality. Yes, I know: tribal concepts of family honor and Arab desert customs take pride in the fact that they are able to break each individual’s will in the service of the larger good of the family, the clan, the most brutal patriarch, the historical past, and ultimately Allah himself. Nevertheless, marrying a ten-year-old to her thirty-year-old, illiterate first cousin or to a man old enough to be her grandfather and who already has two wives and grown sons is barbaric and inhuman. Forcing a girl or a boy to marry someone against their will and preventing them from marrying the person of their choice is a crime against the heart. Often, such arranged marriages (and almost all marriages are arranged) include normalized wife-and daughter-in-law beating. The few shelters and jails for battered women and for the intended victims of honor killings in the Muslim world are filled with such stories. I recently watched an HBO documentary with the catchy title Love Crimes of Kabul. The film takes us inside a woman’s prison in Kabul. The film is surprisingly "light," given how dark its subject really is. The women in the Badam Bagh prison are commendably feisty. They are surprisingly tough babes in the Big House and their pants-wearing rather butch chief female warden is tougher still. And yet, she still functions as their respected and protective mother figure. There is much gruff and playful tenderness among the women who bond with each other and fight with each other as if they are "family"; they eat and sleep together in the same room, communally. The all-female and informal atmosphere is that of a harem, a prison, a brothel.   she has been accused of having had premarital sex, a medical exam in prison proves that she is still a virgin. However, she admits to having engaged in anal sex — something that is quite common in Afghanistan both among men and as a birth control device. For this crime Sabera was sentenced to three years. Courtesy of Amnesty International and Frontline/PBS, everyone now knows about the "dancing boys" of Afghanistan and about the Taliban and Kandahari penchant for young boys, who are often orphans, always poor boys, who are taught to dress and dance like women and with whom the older, dominant man has both anal and oral sex. There is no question that sodomy is a "happening" thing in Afghanistan. Back to the Badum Bagh prison: One woman on camera admits that she finally killed her husband. Naseema is 45 years old and has no regrets. "Men like my husband should all be murdered. He had sex with boys and other women and with a seven year old girl. I did the world some good. But it’s considered a crime. I have no pain or remorse. I’m glad." Unbelievably, but comically, the chief female guard says that "women have been given too much freedom." Another prison guard says: "If they were good women they would not be here. They would be home with their families." No, sir. With their fighting spirits, defiance, open-heartedness, and philosophical minds these are very, very good women indeed. Dr. Phyllis Chesler is the author of 14 books and an emerita professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies. She once lived in Kabul, Afghanistan. She may be reached through her website www.phyllis-chesler.com.

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