Kabul, Afghanistan – At the Afghan Women Skills Development Centre (AWSDC) shelter in Kabul, Maryam, Shokufa, Malae, and Asifa make ends meet behind locked doors.
The AWSDC, a non-governmental organisation, helps severely traumatised girls and women who are victims of forced prostitution, domestic violence, and child marriages. These women are hidden behind guarded walls and protected from the outside world.
Many of the victims here survived years of abuse before finding their way to the shelter. And for most, the shelter is a rest stop on a long road of battles in courts in a male-dominated legal system.
Life at the shelter is safe but boring. There are few activities but food preparation, laundry, regular Quran lessons, and sleep, which helps them forget the past.
Once a week the women visit a beauty salon inside the shelter where the special treatment they receive makes them feel beautiful again and gives them a sense of self-respect.
The women may be safe here, but they are not free as they are permanently under the threat of death through an honour killing by their families.
Shokufa, 22, is from Iran. Her much-older husband’s family accused her of adultery, locked her in the basement, and beat her severely. She became pregnant but her husband tried to kill her. She managed to escape but ended up in prison. Now she is in the shelter, expecting her baby.
Once in a while, teachers from the outside visit the shelter and do extra exercises with the women.
Women perform evening prayers at the shelter.
The women in the shelter are deeply traumatised and scarred by their experiences and often break down in tears.
Written By Marielle van Uitert
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