What It’s Like Being a Pashtun Woman on Social Media – Story 2: indecent exposures, demands for massages, and orders to be quiet

Ramadhan mubarak, everyone 🙂 I hope you’re all having a wonderful and spiritually enlightening month! God be our Light, always, aameen!

This morning, when I checked my Facebook, I was greeted by an incredibly unsettling and disgusting message from someone named Sargand Ghazi  (the link is to his Facebook profile – this is probably not his real name): He had sent me a naked picture of himself (private part) – no face showing, of course, because he’s so profoundly brave – with the message, all caps, “I LOVE YOU.” (?)

And so I was reminded of this series that I’d promised to keep up with. Click here for an Introduction to the Series; and click here to read the first story I received. (I’d like to emphasize here that people, especially Pashtuns, need to read the Introductory post so I don’t get the usual “STOP MAKING IT SEEM LIKE ONLY PASHTUNS DO THIS” responses.) Below is Story #2, and more will be shared soon. Thank you for reading! 🙂 Feel free to contribute your own thoughts and experiences, whether you’re Pashtun or not. I understand this harassment isn’t limited to Pashtuns alone. God be with us all, aameen.

The below is shared by an active Twitter and Facebook user who’s a staunch proponent of Pashtun nationalism and is unabashedly outspoken about women’s rights. The comments she often receives on her posts in support especially for women’s rights are vulgar and misogynistic, and she’s sent me screenshots of some of them here. I’m trying my best to translate them since they’re primarily in Pashto.

zipperlips-pashtanaShe and I have a funny mutual story. (Predictably, some of these harassers harass women who happen to be friends and share the men’s vulgar messages and comments with each other.) So there’s someone named Akmal Dost on Facebook (Wayand Sangin on Twitter) who, while we were having what was in my opinion a completely innocent conversation–one of those times when I decided to be kind to my blog readers and respond to their messages when they contact me–comes the next day to complain to me about how tired he is because he had plenty of back-to-back meetings. So he asks me to extend my legs so he can rest upon them and/or that I should massage his legs. This is unacceptable in any culture, but in a culture as obsessed with modesty as the Pashtun culture, this is beyond unacceptable. While it’d be unfair to say that all of “Pashtun culture” is this invested in modesty necessarily,  since all cultures are understood differently by different families belonging to them, in some Pashtun communities/families, it is unacceptable even when a daughter massages her father’s feet/body or if a sister massages her brother’s. (I’ve given more details and examples on what Pashtuns consider shameful and taboo, etc., under  a post I’ve proudly titled The Privilege of Sexy Talk. #beamsBecuzImSoCreativeWithTitlesSometimes) Of course, this man wasn’t literally expecting this of me (he’s in Afghanistan physically, and I’m in the U.S.), but his nerve! His thinking that I would accept his comment! How he dared!

Here’s a screenshot of our conversation:

Story 3- ughI used “wife” there (“why are you speaking to me like I’m your wife?”) because, at least per cultural and religious standards, such intimacy is acceptable only among married couples. (Note how he goes on to tell me when he does seek permission: “I only take permission when I am ready to put something in something before making any damage or cause[ing] any pain.”) The fact that he approached me as if I would approve of such an intimate conversation appalls me. An absolute HELL-NO! To him and to any other man of his sort.

And then when I saw him sending vulgar messages to my friend M. on Twitter, I told her what he’d said to me. She then shared a lot of other such messages from several other men. She, like many other women (including me), has received naked pictures from men–of themselves, we presume–and she says:

My advice to all pakhtuns men who don’t respect pakhtane women or don’t consider them as human being should change their mind. Zaka na pa zarroki/scarf ao na pa burqa khaza pakhtana kege ao na pre dranege, doi dey khpal nazar khazo pa haqla badal krri zaka mung 21 tama perrai/century ki usege. Khalaq parmakhtag kawe ao mug khaza ghwa pa shan kor ki tarraly che bahar uweni no pa kato rape kawe [Translation: A woman doesn’t become a Pukhtun simply by covering her face or body or hiding her identity; neither does she gain respect that way. It is the mindset of these men that needs to change. It’s the 21st century, and the rest of the world has advanced while we’re still keeping our women tied in homes like they’re some cattle with the unfounded fear that if she leaves the home, she’ll be raped!] Every pakhtun should educate their sons to respect women on social media and in public, we need change ao change da Zana shoro kege [change begins at home, with ourselves] Yani change their dirty way of thinking of women as a subject. if not we will never become a civilized and peaceful nation.

Here are some screenshots she’s allowed me to share publicly. She has also given permission to be identified by her Social Media name.

Story 3 -1The original posting on the image to the left reads: Husan (beauty) loses its value when it is displayed in the public. That’s why Pashtun women cover their faces.

My friend Mahbooba replies: “That’s why I don’t cover my face. So that when it shows, you can tell I’m a human.”

The dude whose comment is circled in red (Mahbooba circled it), says to her in response: “Do you think that, since you show your face when you’re not supposed to, anyone would ever accept you as Pashtun?  People look at you and they count you as among a nation we have no respect for! No offense, but you need this advice, sister.”

Story 3-2The message above says: “If you’re indeed a woman, stay at home and serve your husband sexually. Democracy (? democorce isn’t a Pashto word) doesn’t benefit you in any way.”

Story 3-3Gulp. Astaghfirullah. God forgive us and help us see our wrong ways so we may correct them. This message above includes multiple ways of saying “eff you” and “eff your mother.” And words that roughly translate to “bitch,” “whore,” etc. (saying that she’s the daughter of a whore or one herself).

Story 3-5In the screenshot above, Akmal Dost, introduced earlier, is referencing a song that describes the (female) beloved as a yellow aloocha (plum). He, as he says, means no offense but is just honestly expressing his feelings for this woman because of her deep devotion to and love for the Pashtun/Afghan cause. Not that her marital status should matter at all, but he does know she’s married.

Story 3-7This one’s self-explanatory, except for the first line, which is in Pashto and reads: “What a useless song you’ve just shared!”

Story 3-9This one  is my favorite, you guys! LOL. Homeboy comes to tell her that if the profile picture is hers, then please delete it. Ends with: “Forgive me.” k, you’re excused.

Story 3-10In the image above, the writer demands proof 1) that Mahbooba is a female, and 2) that she isn’t some proxy working for name-your-favorite-intelligence-agency-etc-that-shuts-all-discussions. Note that this is the same individual who, in an earlier message, told her that if she’s really a woman, she should stay at home and make sure her husband’s sexual demands are being met properly.

harassment 1The above screenshot has tweets from the brother Junior Skipper (Twitter) threatening to rape our friend M.: He threatens that if she doesn’t shut up, he will do it anally because she’s a feisty girl and won’t be tamed with vaginal rape alone….


A screenshot of his Twitter page.

My (Orbala’s) message to Mahbooba:

I need you to know that I deeply admire your strength and willingness to take on these trolls despite the consequences. You stand up to them and carry on with your bold attitude–when there should be nothing “bold” about standing up firmly for justice, pointing out the flaws of our communities, and demanding your rights as a woman–knowing the likely reactions of your almost all-male and very patriarchal audience. Thank you for your perseverance (though I will also fully understand if you ever decide to stop, since it can be very discouraging and daunting, I know 🙂 But please don’t stop…). Whatever it may be worth, if anything at all, I’m always happy to back you up and offer any kind of support to remind you that you’re not alone. We women must stick together in this fight!

More stories soon.
Coming up:
Story 3: on public identity, marriage proposals, unwanted requests

15 thoughts on “What It’s Like Being a Pashtun Woman on Social Media – Story 2: indecent exposures, demands for massages, and orders to be quiet

  1. The same reveals what we in Pukhtunwali call “Khandan/weena/Zat” the background the person grew up in…..its like everyone both Individuals and Khandan has ‘Kasa/bowl of khuye/conduct’, the ones having a bigger bowl, no matter what comes to them, be it education, money, freedom, social status, power, it all rests deep in the bowl. As a result they never show off (negatively/never get pretentious) at the same time the never even unconsciously get down to the lows of meanness…on the contrary those who have a small/waruki “Kasa of khuye”, their ‘kasa’ gets brimmed up very quickly and pouring down all that it contains…In the case above the person seems from the second category…the space/freedom social media has provided him because of his’waruki kasa both his and khandan/zat’ couldn’t absorb, and pour down……..


  2. its so true. there are many reasons for this misdeed and shamefull work. first we are illeterate, but that does not justify it completely, even there are and were illeterate civilised nations. we are not just to our mothers, sisters, wives and daughters. secondly the misinterpretation of islam by the low moralled molavis. pashtuns eat lots of meat and they always high on libido. they are ethically low valued, our societies are based on sunni islam and pashtunwali, which are quite extremist. they have nothing known as womens right. we are lowly civilised. we have hazaras our neighbours which are much ethically and socially civilised because of their origin of islam. they are shia muslims which socially more active and valued. i am not saying that the shias are better muslims then sunnis. they both have misinterpreted islam. but what i am trying to say is that you can not solve a problem unless you know the origin of that problem, the reason behind it. we are more like animals. most of our population lives in villages which are less civilised and education. there are no good communication and transportation means in pashtun populated areas in afganistan and pakistan. we are not much into the modern world, and one last reason which i consider to be the most important is the british or uk dominated media in pashtun societies. they are actively propagating non islamic and pashtun values in our socities. they have been doing this for then 150 years. we gave almost all our originality. we say Assalamu alaikum rather then saying sal dei. our vulnerability to such poisons is our weakness of propaganda culture. every illeterate nation can be easily exploited through propagonda. spreading a news with out confirmation or fact. we are much played by the britishers and english people to now present day. unless we dont get independent and soveriegnty such issues will not solved. because our islamic publication is done in the madrass(university) punjab and karachi. they were done before in india. these publications and editions are issued well under the provision of MI6 and MI7 and CIA. everything in these publication is spread by the molvis( the religous scholars) in pashtun socities. these publications are solely against womens rights. they are the problem creators. the future which i see for us is quite dark.


    • I appreciate the sentiment behind your comment, Rahim wrora, but understand that I fully disagree with you and do not appreciate your message.

      Good God – when the “enlightened” Pashtun (often atheist or otherwise non-Muslim but in this case Muslim) thinks that starting a discussion on a complicated subject such as misogyny among Pashtuns is an invitation to him to come and oversimplify everything with his “because we are so illiterate!” or “because we are Sunni/Muslims!” or “because we are easily fooled! Our people are so stupid!”

      Don’t undermine the intelligence of my people; we’re not a stupid folk, and illiteracy–as you note yourself, actually–has nothing to do with misogyny. The exact same things I’ve posted here happens to non-Pashtun, non-Muslim women in the West as well, including the most liberated, most enlightened of all humans – our former colonizers, the white peoplez! If the way that Pashtun men are treating Pashtun women online is because of sexual repression, a false understanding of Islam, no sense of spirituality and piety, etc., why does the exact same thing happen to women in non-Muslim societies and cultures? The underlying problem here isn’t Islam or Pashtunwali; it’s patriarchy, it’s men *knowing* that they can get away with anything they do to women, it’s people turning a blind eye towards these harassment, it’s us telling each other to just let it go and not raise a fuss over something so “small” as a man sending you his naked photo.

      Also, note that you don’t actually condemn the men doing these things; you try to find justifications for them – like oh poor things; if they weren’t suffering in poverty and ignorance, they wouldn’t be doing this. Poverty, illiteracy, etc. are definitely among the most important social ills of our time in our society, but the harassment of women and others online shouldn’t be attributed to that because … dude, if these guys are poor, they woudln’t have access to or time for the internet in the first place! And most of them can write in at least basic English, so so much for illiteracy. Even the most well-educated men, born and raised in the most educated families, can be and sometimes are very patriarchal and even misogynistic in their lifestyles and expectations of women.


  3. the best solution right now for pashtoon sister, is that they should use Fb carefully and when do not make any communication with the strangers
    by strangers i mean ( friending unknown people) keep it to the known people
    As for the male youth, yar janab baap ke dande kuch nahi kar sakh to aur kuch kya huskata hai. our country and especially our pashtoon culture are living in a developing age
    yes there is a need of change but it wont occur within one or two years, rather it will take at least a century,because its roots are our parents and the system that is developed for female and male in the cities like Quetta; where the teenager havent met a girl properly and he has only text her and only met him may be twice and during this time it is not enough to understand and respect women, which as result causes same bad treatment even after marriage and many year so on until they die or divorce


    • No. The “best solution” isn’t for women to “be careful” – it is for men to stop doing this, for you to condemn men who do this. None of the women I have spoken about so far (and I’m one of them) are careless or in any way provoking these men.
      This thinking that somehow, women must be doing something to trigger these kinds of responses from men – the naked photos, the insults, the threats – needs to end, and it begins with us as individuals. That includes you, too, wror gwala!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. oh wow ….lost for words really, this social media thing just allows people to express their uninhibited thoughts,because all they are just a profile and all the opposite person can do is block you ,..rest am really lost for words ,because i thought respect for women in pashtun culture was supreme ..alas


    • Yes – now when they claim “but we respect women!” I’m like “Oh, which kind of women DO you respect, if this is what actually happens to some women?” I think the respect is reserved only for the quiet women who remain silent no matter what and only parrot society’s expectations. That’s not respect for women – that’s misogyny.


  5. Pingback: What It’s Like Being a Pashtun Woman on Social Media – Story 3: on public identity, marriage proposals, unwanted requests | Freedom from the Forbidden

  6. Pingback: What It’s Like Being a Pashtun Woman on Social Media | Freedom from the Forbidden

  7. Pingback: What It’s Like Being a Pashtun Woman on Social Media – Story 4: intimidation, insults, peghor | Freedom from the Forbidden

  8. Pingback: What It’s Like Being a Pashtun Woman on Social Media – Story 4: when men send you porn to try to silence you | Freedom from the Forbidden

  9. Pingback: What It’s Like Being a Pashtun Woman on Social Media – Story 5: inappropriate messages from “respected” figures | Freedom from the Forbidden

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