In the first bed, a skinny fourteen-year-old girl lay rolled into her sheets in a state of almost “catatonic unresponsiveness, eyes closed, not speaking even in reply to the doctor’s gentle greeting. Her family had brought her to be treated for mental illness, the doctor explained with regret. They had recently married her to a man in his seventies, a wealthy and influential personage by their standards. In their version of things, something had started mysteriously to go wrong with her mind as soon as the marriage was agreed upon – a case of demon

possession, her family supposed. When,

after repeated beatings, she still failed to cooperate gracefully with her new husband’s sexual demands, he had angrily returned her to her family and ordered them to fix this problem. They had taken the girl to a mullah, who had tried to expel the demon through prayers and by writing Quranic passages on little pieces of paper that had to be dissolved in water and then drunk, but this had brought no

improvement, so the mullah had abandoned his diagnosis of demon possession and decided that the girl was sick. The family had brought her to the clinic, to be treated for insanity.”

–Cheryl Benard, Veiled Courage: Inside the Afghan Women’s Resistance (2002).


Afghanistan has been called ‘the worst place in the world to be a woman’, because not only is the poverty pervasive and the lifespan short, but while they are alive many women live like slaves. The situation for women in Afghanistan is dismal in every area with violence against them ‘endemic’ and a government that fails to protect them from crimes such as rape and murder. However, as disturbing as this news is, the oppression of and violence towards women in Afghanistan is in no way unique to their society.