An Open Letter To Reyhaneh Jabbari, Who Was Hanged For Murdering Her Rapist

Posted on November 6, 2014 in Specials, Staff Picks

By Shubhrastha:

Dear Reyhaneh!

I am crying while writing this because I lost a sister in this battle. Because I feel cheated and defeated once again after your cruel murder. I feel cheated that the so called human world we inhabit could not save you. I feel defeated that the trust I put in institutions like the UNHRC stands crushed. Vulgarity and brute authority defeated raw power and I feel pathetic and ashamed, Reyhaneh.

Reyhaneh Jabbari

You and I share the same history. I am a woman just like you are, just as so many of us are. It does not matter which country, which nationality, which race, which continent, and which society we come from. We share the same past. We share the same darkness. Tell me, Reyhaneh, if you disagree.

When I was abused as a child for the first time, it happened within the family. I did not own up — for the longest time. I did not know that it was wrong. And when I did, a lot of my own family members called it a lie. I grew up confident because my parents stood rock solid beside me. I wrote about it once – publicly – after, you know, a girl almost as young as me was raped in my country and brutally manhandled. She succumbed to internal injuries.

When I wrote about it publicly, I cried inconsolably. I feared humiliation. I feared the same dismissal as it happened when I came out with my demon. But trust me, that gave me strength. Today again, I feel fragile. I feel vulnerable, caught up, almost broken, and shattered. Perhaps I am writing this to share my grief with your mother. Perhaps I am writing this to tell her that your mother lost one Reyhaneh but has so many of them alive in each one us — each one of the survivors. I am writing this to tell her that she should not cry. She must not cry because then survivors like me would crumble.

The second time I was abused, I was again, very young. This was in school. I don’t even remember who the guy was. He was a senior who lured me into sharing an innocent Kismi Bar in an empty classroom. He sent off my brother, who was further younger to me by two years, to play. Perhaps, my brother won’t even remember it today. We were that young.

The third and fourth times it happened, they were cousins of mine doing the wrong. It might be dismissed as small acts or error, but it was not, Reyhaneh. I felt that it was not a mistake. I was big enough to understand it as wrong. I have no clue why I chose to weep in the dark and let it go — just like that. I avoided visiting that place alone, which I called another home and family, ever since.

The fifth time it happened, I was 17 years old. The man was three times my age. You would know Reyhaneh, I trust you would, it has left a scar on me.

There were sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, nth times Reyhaneh, when I felt violated. When my body was made to feel like some object to be fiddled with when there was no escort to protect it; when I was made to feel like a nonliving thing out there for any man, of any age — to just touch, grope, play with and go.

And why, Reyhaneh? Because now I know, after having suffered all that, that they knew they would get away. They knew that families would suppress those weeping wails in the name of honor. They knew that no Reyhaneh would accost them.

Now tell me, did you not share this history? I know you did, because my sisters in each part of the world have faced the same. An NGO, Sahil, reports 2,303 cases of child sexual abuse in Pakistan in the year 2011. Another report states that 1 out of 5 girls in the US is a victim of child sexual abuse. Parliamentary reports in Sri Lanka state that more than 5000 cases of child molestation happened in Sri Lanka in 2012. More than 60000 cases of child abuse were reported in Japan in 2012.

For how long Reyhaneh, for how long, will all of us keep suffering like this? What you did was a step towards answering that question. But what you got in return was a kickback to that positivity. And yes, you are true when you said “The world did not love us”.

But Reyhaneh, don’t say you gave in. You stood up against the tide all the while. You resisted supremacy of a man over your decision to not let him touch you. You resisted by playing graceful and strong when faced with the most bitter questions in the dock. And today you announce to stay in multiple bodies through your noble donation.

No Rayhaneh, you are not ‘giving in’ to it and embracing death. You are not. There is a Reyhaneh in each survivor who is strong enough to accept her past and deal with it courageously. There is a Reyhaneh in Malala who was hated first, but embraced much later. There is a Reyhaneh in your mother who will stand strong with each of us to live further with the cause that so many Reyhanehs associate themselves with.

What died the moment you were murdered is a shred of humanity, somewhere, from each one of us. What died at that very moment you took your last breath was the state apparatus and system that murdered you in the name of law. What died and is gone forever Reyhaneh, is the sanctity of every human institution our civilization ever created. You, Rehanyeh, did not die. You, in fact, became immortal with this history you just created with your voice.

More strength to you Reyhaneh, and more love to you.

Long live your legacy!