Mahboubeh Hosseinzadeh (left), one of the Iranian woman activists freed from prison this past week has written an essay which is posted at the Change for Equality website entitled “All Women are Victims, not Just those in Prison”. Here is an excerpt:
“Our husbands are lying in enclosed graves and we are in open graves. We too ceased to live the very day that we killed our husbands.” These are the words of a woman who spends her nights on the three story bed across from me. Her nights are filled with nightmares about the death of her husband—a husband she stabbed to death.
This is Evin prison—the women’s ward. Nahid and I do not fully comprehend which national security we have undermined, nonetheless with this charge we spend our days in limbo in the midst of these women. Ten of the 16 women with whom we have shared a cell for over a week, are here on charges of murdering their husbands. These women, having lost faith in a legal system that offers no hope and no protection, weave their days to the darkness of the night that lingers behind the tall walls of Evin. If our laws had the capacity to defend women charged with murder, they would not be here now, spending their time idly in waiting for the day that would swallow them—a term used by female inmates to describe execution day.
These women, they all seem kind and patient to me. They are women forced into marriages they did not choose, women who were forcibly married off at the age of 13 and 14, women whose husbands were chosen by their fathers…one of these women was forced into marriage through physical violence bestowed upon her by her father, who slapped her repeatedly until she accepted her fate. Until she accepted to marry a man who was 45 years her senior. Another woman continues to have nightmares about that doomed day four years ago, when she took matters into her own hands and murdered her husband. She worries about her daughters whom she turned over the state welfare organization for care. Others too, have similar stories.
Woman, mother, requests for divorce, discriminatory laws, murderers…all but one of them is under 40 years of age. She asks “why doesn’t anyone listen to our problems or pains?” “Where was the judge when my husband forced me onto the streets, into prostitution, in an effort to earn enough money to support his habit of addiction? What is one to do? Which laws were meant to support me? Which laws were intended to save me? Why didn’t the judge listen to my pleas? I grew weary. The law provided me with no refuge. I defended myself. Yes! I killed him!”
Another woman explains “my father said that we will lose face. I cried. I asked my father didn’t you marry me off by force at age 13? Now I want a divorce. My father refused. But when I saw my husband that night with another woman, in my own bed, I could no longer take the abuse.” The victims are not just the women with whom I share a cell. The victims are all women in this land.
Read the entire article, as well as the article by Nahid Keshavarz (above right) , What will they do about the Growing Awareness Among Female Prisoners and their Guards?
As we have seen in living color this week as we watched what unfolded in a courtroom in Selmer, Tennessee, and followed the response to the testimony of Mary Winkler (center) about her preacher husband’s battering, sexual, emotional and spiritual abuse, despite beliefs to the contrary among American men, in particular, American women and Iranian women share much in common.
This is a battle that as women, we wage throughout the world, this battle to be free of the abuse of men, particularly the men with whom we live, whom we marry, with whom we bear children, or who are our fathers. It is a battle which too often goes unremarked, ignored, trivialized or dismissed, which is couched in terms which obscure its reality — “domestic violence,” “spousal abuse” — a battle for which, too often, women give their lives in one way or another.
It is heartbreaking and devastating to me that over 40 years post-consciousness-raising meetings in the U.S., England, Canada and other parts of the world, meetings in which women began to share their stories of abuse at the hands of male partners and family members, meetings which gave birth to the Domestic Violence/Women’s Shelter movement in the U.S., England, Canada and elsewhere, so little has changed! We continue to be abused, battered, murdered, raped, then blamed for it, punished over and over again for the crime of trusting, or loving, or submitting and obeying, or for being forced into relationships against our will, blamed, punished, imprisoned for fighting back when we can’t take it anymore.