The firs story in the series of being a (Pashtun) woman on the Internet. (Be sure to read this, folks – I’m afraid someone brilliant is going to come up and say, “But it’s not just Pashtun women who face these problems! Why are you targeting Pashtun men as harassers only?!” Because you didn’t read.)
The following person shall remain anonymous. Whatever I am sharing has been approved by her. It is told from her perspective.
Someone on Facebook made fake profiles and page in my name, stole all my pictures, and threatened that he would photoshop my face on porn videos if I didn’t write him sweet stuff. He made SO many profiles. I kept reporting them, reporting them to Facebook, and he kept threatening me. And, yes, I’ve gone private now, and I don’t mind sharing this because it adds to the conclusion that they want to drive me off social media. But they won’t win!
Another person once told me, “Why don’t you get a proper job instead of putting out stupid video messages and showing your face? Wasting our time trying to show people your beauty? You are a disgrace and no Afghan man will marry you if you continue this way. My advice to you is get off camera get married and have kids, it will do you some good.”
It was under a video message I recorded for a charity event. I wore a scarf because I was representing Afghan women and didn’t want anyone to accuse me of anything but yet got that comment. That gave me a shock that there were people out there watching it with bad eyes. Few years down the line I asked the charity to delete the video because my mother kept getting comments from Afghan women about me “talking to a wall” – what does that even mean?? lol
The worst comment on Facebook? A man once sent me a picture of a cartoon – it was a woman sitting or let me put it bluntly riding a big penis. And then included a winky face to it. Blocked straight away.
Invitations on social media? Marriage proposals through email (some have been utterly respectful and for that I have no complaints) others invitations to hotel rooms (from so called respected officials). Others through an excuse of work or projects wanted to meet but it was quite obvious what the intentions were. Some of them have been married men, who’ve wanted webcam conversations and such.
I feel disgusted to be honest. Nobody would admit they have had such communication with men but I will admit it because I didn’t bring it on myself. It is NOT my fault, I am NOT to blame for the way someone especially a man talks to me. It is a reflection of what and who they are. It hurts me too sometimes I think is it only me??? But I know it’s not.
Although some women hold themselves in high esteem and say “Men would never dare speak to me like that or invite me to places like that because of how much respect they have for me, they are just very official with me”. I’m sorry what exactly have I done that’s different to you? Maybe the only difference is that I post pictures of myself at places at events with people – men and women. Does that make them think I’m easy? Does that give them a right to write me things like that? Is it because I openly say if something has annoyed me through a Facebook post? What is it that makes them contact me that way? Being in the “public eye” brings these things, everyone tells me.
How am I in the public eye? I’m just an ordinary citizen writing stuff on cyber space that other people agree with too. It’s not a crime.
To sum up my experience with social media. I started off with high levels of privacy, posting zero to no photos of myself on Facebook. After realising the opportunities I could gain through social media, I joined Twitter and became more confident with my usage. Posted photos and pictures on Instagram and Facebook but not on Twitter. In the end I tweeted pictures on Twitter too.
Sometimes I got picked on for my accent in Pashto when I appeared on TV; others made fun of me for my comments. My passion over issues lead me to take part in programmes and activities that women my age wouldn’t. Other times I’ve been called a non believer and been threatened with death – so glad those came from outside the country I live in – otherwise I would have feared for my safety.
Although someone kept putting into Google my name and then attaching family to it – to find out information about my family. That also made me worried.
One girl under the name Shabnam Popal wrote me things like “Stop showing off” “you are such an embarrassment to Afghan women seriously” “you’re so stupid your opinions are stupid nobody cares!” Ok if they are so stupid why are you coming into my profile to comment on such things if you don’t like them?
Others have said on Twitter “you’ve done nothing that I should be proud of so don’t know why you keep RT’ing your interview” “stop embarrassing us”.
In the end I just think to myself, these people must have so much time on their hands and so much energy for hate and horrible words. With the men I just think they need to reevaluate how they look at women who use social media and in what manner should one talk to someone they don’t even know.
All these has declined within the years because I have taken a step back in writing about issues. This year I plan to break that silence. I hope what’s in store won’t be as bad as before.
My (Orbala’s) message to this incredible woman:
Thank you for all that you do. I’m glad to have you in my life, and Pashtuns, too, are lucky to have you. I’m sorry that you have to endure the dreadful comments and responses of so many insecure men and women, and you’re right – if what you’re doing isn’t important, why are they even commenting on it? Isn’t that itself a huge sign that what you’re doing is actually important? Keep rocking 🙂 Don’t be discouraged, don’t lose hope. You’re a part of the reason that the girls and women of the generations after us will inshaAllah have it much easier than we do.