My Nigerian Sisters

Over a month ago, 276 of my sisters were kidnapped in northern Nigeria. They were kidnapped by a group of savages who call themselves “Boko Haram.”

These beasts raided a boarding school in Nigeria where female high school students were housed so that they could get educated. These girls had to take off from school for a while prior to their abduction but had recently returned to take their final exams and finish their school year. They had taken off earlier due to the exact fears that came true on April 15: they feared they would be attacked by the extreme conservatives in northern Nigeria who are against girls getting educated.

On April 15, 204 these young, innocent girls were asleep at their boarding school when “dozens of heavily armed terrorists” opened fire inside their sleeping quarters. Boko Haram caused all sorts havoc… I am only imagining a scene from a terrible and grotesquely violent movie. They not only started shooting but also set fire to the school: complete destruction.

Amidst all the chaos, they managed to group the students together, threatened them, and “then herded several hundred terrified girls” into their “trucks, buses and vans” and “drove off and vanished.”

This is where the disturbing, saddening, and extremely painful story of my sisters starts.

They were girls the same age as my biological sisters who had similar dreams and aspirations as my own sisters. They were girls breaking down barriers, making their families proud. They were going to change their little towns, their country, their continent, and their world!

How tragic it is that 267 persons have just vanished off of the face of the Earth? How tragic it is that such an atrocity has occurred in our world today?

Boko Haram is a word in the Hausa language; it means, “Western education is a sin.” While I have no knowledge of the Hausa language, the word Haram is familiar to me as it is an Arabic word commonly used by Muslims. Haram means “forbidden” or “sin.” As a Muslim, all I can say is that Boko Haram is HARAM.

Reasons why members of Boko Haram are haram, and not Muslim:

  • They attacked innocent civilians
  • They attacked women and children
  • They attacked defenseless girls
  • They kidnapped 267 humans against their will
  • They are keeping hostage 267 girls
  • They plan to sell people as if they were property
  • They are forcing young girls into marriage
  • They have claimed to have forcibly converted the girls they abducted
  • The men in Boko Haram are currently with 267 females who are not their mothers, daughters, wives, or sisters; this makes residing with females who are not their relatives HARAM

I hope that God is taking good care of my Nigerian sisters. I wonder how they are able to sleep at nights; I wonder how their families are holding up. I hope God gives those 267 girls and their families the strength to get through this. I hope that United Nations and the United States take some legitimate, hardcore action against these savages who call themselves Muslims. I don’t think they are worthy of being called animals, for even animals are compassionate and civilized compared to these monsters. Yes, that’s what they are: monsters. And monsters go to Hell.


Reference: Nicholas Kristof’s Op-Ed piece in the New York Times on May 3, 2014 .


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Nusrat – the helper

Date: January 13, 2013

This one is about the domestic help at my grandparent’s house, Nusrat. She, like Maria, is one of many Pakistani women who work to support their families. But her story is slightly different. Nusrat, whose name means “the helper” is working hard to not only feed her kids but also educate them.

One day, I decided to follow Nusrat around the house as she worked on her chores. It was a sunny day and I was at home with my aunt. The power had gone out for one hour, as it does every two hours over there so the house was calm and quiet. I started by asking for her permission to write her story and take her photograph. She started smiling and said “Sure, why not!” (in Urdu, of course).

Nusrat has no idea when she was born, just that she was about 14 when she got married. She was born in Mardan, a town in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province. She migrated to Karachi, Pakistan shortly after getting married. Karachi is a long way and a completely different setting from her hometown of Mardan, but Nusrat said that she enjoyed her time in the Sindhi port city. She said that the air in Karachi was a lot better and the lifestyle was faster paced. According to Nusrat, she had little to worry about in Karachi, she felt more relaxed there.

Nusrat identifies herself as a Pathan, someone from the KPK who speaks Pashto, but because she has spent a long time in Karachi and now Rawalpindi, she can speak Urdu very well. She has five children, four sons and one daughter:

  • Adil – son, 18 years old – works as a driver
  • Salman – son, 14 years old – works as a tailor
  • Nauman – son, 12 years old – student
  • Layba – daughter, 10 years old – student
  • Sameer – son, 8 years old – student

Next, I asked her questions I was most curious about but I was slightly nervous because of the sensitivity of the topic – women’s rights and status in Pakistan. So I started by testing the waters and asked, “Nusrat, do you do parda?”

Parda is an Urdu/Farsi word that literally means “curtain” but can be used to mean veil or a cover worn by a person. In Islam, men and women are both asked to cover their bodies. For women, the parda includes covering their head with a hijab, or headscarf; basically, only the face can be shown. While it is not required in the religion, some women cover their face revealing only their eyes (called niqab) or cover their entire face with a see-thru veil that allows them to see the outside but people cannot see them (called burqah).

The matter of parda is one that is religious, cultural, but also personal; therefore, it is much debated and highly sensitive.

“Mein parda karti hu (I stay in parda)….” Nusrat took a long pause to think and continued, “aur mujhay acha lagta hai (and I like it).”

I asked her if she chose to cover and how much she covers and she told me that she covers because her husband asked her to, otherwise she would not be allowed to work.

I hesitantly continued, “Would you cover if your husband did not ask you to?”

Nusrat said, with such certainty that I was surprised she didn’t wait to think this one through, “Yes, I would, because I feel safe and protected with my chador over my head.” Continue reading