A Sister and Brother Battle to Escape Domestic Abuse: 'Everyone was against us'

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: Since the outcry over the gang-rape and the subsequent death of a young woman in Delhi last December, we at The World have discussed violence against women around the globe a lot. Those conversations have been dominated by the voices of female activists, but tomorrow we're hosting a live video chat exploring the role of men in fighting violence against women. One activist who will be joining us online is 24-year-old Ali Shahidy from Kabul, Afghanistan. A few years ago, Shahidy helped his sister escape from an abusive marriage in neighboring Iran. He wasn't a defender of women. Shahidy says when he was growing up in Afghanistan, the abuse suffered by his mothers and sisters didn't shock him.

Ali Shahidy: I was raised in a family where violence against women was a very ordinary everyday thing and we used to see our mom being beaten. And almost every Afghan family witnesses and experiences domestic violence in their homes and we were raised by that culture and I became violent. And even women, they accepted the status quo. They accepted whatever was happening on them. I'm not blaming them. I'm just saying that this is our culture.

Werman: Maybe you can help us understand. I mean what goes through the average Afghan male's head when he happens to be beating a woman? Why is he thinking he's doing it.

Shahidy: If a man beats his wife or he can control his wife or he can control his sisters, he feels proud for this. The entire culture is something that accepts men's superiority to be dominant and to be masculine.

Werman: You yourself beat your sister, you write, when you were younger.

Shahidy: Yes. Yes, when I was younger, I was controlling their mobility and I was controlling their appearance, their look, the way they would appear outside and if I didn't want them to do anything, to do something, or if I didn't want them to go outside and if they were persistent, yes, I was using violence.

Werman: But tell me, Ali, what changed for you personally?

Shahidy: The challenge of rescuing my sister from her abusive husband made me go through the laws, Islamic laws and domestic laws about women's rights and study more and more about women's rights. Because when we decided to divorce my sister from her husband there were more laws, our lawmakers who opposed with our decision and they were mainly in favor of the man. Everybody was against us. Even our very close relatives, they were all blaming us and they were all against us. Well, I couldn't accept this. Gradually this really made me more and more passionate about women's rights because I wanted to advocate for my sister. I wanted to save her. I wanted to rescue her.

Werman: Where is your sister now?

Shahidy: She's now here with us in Kabul and she's safe and her husband is in Iran and he has no access to us and they're divorced now.

Werman: 24-year-old Kabul activist Ali Shahidy. Find out more about how he helped his sister escape the husband who was abusing her by joining Shahidy in our live video chat tomorrow. Just go to theworld.org. at 10:00 a.m. Eastern time.