"People Just Don’t Want to Have Anything to Do with You": Afghan Woman Whose Husband Was Executed in Iran, Tells her Story
Ms. H (name changed to protect anonymity) is a 32-year-old resident of Jebraeil, Herat Province, Afghanistan who was born in Mashhad, Iran. Iran’s judiciary executed her husband Qorbanali on drug charges. The following is based on an interview conducted in May 2018.
Of some 6,100 defendants executed by Iran’s judiciary since 2010, at least 145 have been Afghans – a national designation that, per Iranian law, pertains both to immigrants from Afghanistan and children of Afghan men regardless of the place of their birth. Afghans living in Iran number some 2.5 million according to official sources. Activists report that they face both informal discrimination and formal state impediments to employment, education, and residence.
The subject of drugs is something that is really looked down upon, especially in Afghan families; people just don’t want to have anything to do with you and look at you differently. In our case, friends and family and relatives, everyone, had left us and we were really in very tough conditions. I could never ask him about his situation inside prison.
The same day my husband left the house – he left at 7 o’clock in the morning – two people knocked on our door, around 12 o’clock. My son was little, he was about two years old, and he went to open the door. They pushed the door open and came toward me. I said: “What are you doing here? What do you want?” He said: “Move.” Then they turned the whole place upside down. They kept cursing and moving the rugs and looking under them. It was truly a very frightening scene, like what you see in the movies, as they say. But we were seeing it for real. Then they turned the whole house upside down, our clothes, the closets, and they put the rugs away. They kept stomping on the floor really hard, saying “these people are Afghanis, they certainly have weapons too”. I mean, I can never forget these things.
When the people of Afghanistan realize that someone has been in this line of work [drugs], [they want nothing to do with you]. I mean there were days when I had no place to go [to take refuge]. The truth is that no one wanted me. They treated me very badly because my husband had been arrested for drugs, let alone help me out with anything.
One always has things to say. You’re asking me about [being] helped! I want to say something that maybe has nothing to do with anything, but I want to confide in you as a woman. I never ask anyone to help me with anything because they help you out, and then they want something else in return. I would never do such a thing, have relations with someone for their help! No, I don’t like that and I won’t do it.
I have heard [offensive] things [from my in-laws] to no end. I have heard them so much and I have been so crushed and so suppressed that I feel like I’ve become anti-social. At my age, I should be a lot more cheerful, with a much greater spirit, but the things that people were saying behind my back, especially when my husband was in jail, [completely brought me down]. Family and relatives [were just relentless in their gossip]. Of course, some of my friends always had my back and still do. They went abroad and support me, especially financially; they support me in any amount they can, whatever they can do. But family and relatives, especially my own family, really hurt me a lot. My family plays absolutely no role in my life.
I have a lot of [mementos of my husband]. For example, I have a picture of him that was taken when he was in prison; his conditions were really bad, so he had taken a picture where he looked very sad, as he himself said it. He told me: “Take this picture and print it and set it up and show it when it’s my funeral services.” It’s been maybe 7 years since I opened this photo album.