The Awakening of Hassan
"If you love enough you will forgive anything," said Queen Sheherezade, and Fatima did. Rapes, daily beatings, death threats, constant verbal abuse, murder of her daughter - she forgave her husband Abdul everything. But Abdul would forgive absolutely nothing, no matter how little or insignificant. A speck of dust on the floor, a pot in the wrong place, kebab slightly overcooked, a spot on the clothes - all this was met with barrages of fists. Every little thing she's ever done he would remember and use against her years later. Nothing was ever good enough for Abdul, and everything was always Fatima's fault, whatever the actual source of the problem.
They had a daughter named Najida, who was nearing marriage age. Najida was beautiful, and Abdul hoped to give her to the son of the town's biggest businessman. Then one day she went out to the market and came back, every inch of her body in agony, her face and body scarred beyond recognition. A man had thrown a bucket of sulphuric acid into her face because she accidentally let the burqa slip for a moment and uncover her head. Najida forgave, but now she was family shame whom no man would ever marry. And that could not be forgiven, ever, no matter what else she did.
They had another daughter named Shaheena, who was gang-raped by a young tough named Kemal and his friends. This was the worst family shame possible. So Abdul beat Shaheena to death and threw her body to the dogs. That way, the family no longer had to live with that embarrassment.
They had a son named Hassan, who did not like what he saw around him. Abdul, neighbors, kids, kept calling him traitor, calling him crazy, calling him weak, calling him infidel. He still did not like what he saw. The imam arranged for a public whipping of Hassan, but that still did not sway him. So the imam told Abdul, "Send your son to a madrasa. They will teach him true Islamic ways."
The madrasa was a boarding school dedicated to the teaching of Islam. Its students were boys from all over Pakistan, cramped in small quarters. The education consisted of memorizing fully the Quran and applying its teachings rigorously day in and day out. The boys were trained to burn with the holy fire of Islam, and it was frequently heard them say, "I grow up to kill infidel." Hassan stayed there until the students were summoned to holy cause.
The name of the holy cause was Taliban. The mission: Invade and conquer Afghanistan and subdue it to true Islamic values. They crossed the border on armored vehicles, Toyota pickup trucks, buses, old tanks. They encountered minimal resistance. "Nobody wants to shoot a Talib," locals said, "it's like shooting a nun." Little did they know what the holy Talibs had in store for them.
The country was put under curfew, with roadblocks everywhere and inspection of everyone passing by. Businesses, homes, farms, were constantly raided, with any non-Quranic material confiscated and its owners publicly whipped. People were publicly executed - for playing music, for practicing Buddhism or Christianity, for traveling without a male relative, for talking to a person of other gender. Rape victims were charged with adultery and publicly stoned. Priceless artifacts were destroyed, schools shut down, economic activity slowed to a crawl. Women were forbidden to go outside the home, and husbands were given life-and-death power over them. And most promising men were drafted into the Taliban, leaving their businesses and jobs unattended.
The only thing that grew under the holy Talibs were the jails. People were arrested for everything and anything. Hassan was assigned as a guard to a women's prison in Kandahar. "Surely," thought the commanders, "this will set this boy straight."
The prison was a fetid place crawling with lice, where human feces ran down the floor and food bowls were placed in it. The guards went from cell to cell every day, beating the inmates black and blue. The guards demanded that Hassan take part in the beatings; but he could not bring himself to do it. So they claimed that he was weak and corrupt, that he was not a man, that he should be shot, that he was a traitor to Islam, that the women there were evil whores who had destroyed the fabric of Afghan society and were using, manipulating and controlling him to serve Satan. Still Hassan would not take part in the beatings.
One day, the guards had had enough. Two of them accompanied Hassan to a cell occupied by four young women. They pointed their AK rifles at him and said, "You beat them, or we kill you."
There was no Quaranic justification for what Hassan did next. He knew that this was against Islamic principle, that he could be executed for it and may go to hell. But at this point he no longer cared. In the women he saw Najida's scars and Shaheena's corpse and realized that, if this was to become the way, then any daughters he may himself ever have would be subjected to a world where this was the fate tey would have to suffer. And that, nothing could ever forgive.
Reaching behind for his AK, he slammed its butt into the heads of the two guards, knocking them unconscious. He then took off the key ring and went through the prison, opening every cell, and conducted the women quietly outside.
Outside was the sound of gunshots, bombs, people running from place to place. NATO troops were taking over the country. The Taliban was collapsing, and Allah was nowhere in sight. There were no easy solutions, but now they had a chance at a better future. A future not owned by barbarism and oppression; a future with possibility of freedom, peace, justice, and opportunity; a future into which it was rightful and sensible to bring new life.