U.S. woman describes ‘life of hell’ in Afghan harem

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“An American Bride in Kabul” tells the story of a young American college girl who married an older Afghan man. Despite the initial honeymoon period, she soon finds out that he is not what he seemed.

The autobiographical account, which happened over half a century ago, is the 14th book written by renowned feminist author Phyllis Chesler, currently professor emerita of psychology and women’s studies at City University of New York.

The author was just 18 when she fell in love with a man she met whilst studying at Bard College in the United States. After dating him for two years, she expressed her desire to visit Europe with him, but recounts that he insisted that they must marry before they could travel together.

Wed in a civil ceremony, Chesler was unaware of the new husband’s background and began married life under virtual house arrest at the wealthy family’s compound, eventually fleeing back to the U.S.

Chesler recounted her experience as a young bride in Afghanistan in an interview with Al Arabiya English.

“I kept a diary in Kabul, and I started it using the word ‘patriarchy,’” said Chesler, who struggled with understanding Afghanistan’s deep-rooted culture.

“My experience in Afghanistan provided the kind of education that allowed me to understand what it was like being a woman and a wife in a Muslim-majority country when the times were kinder, gentler—but still very traditional,” she explained.

Chesler stresses that her writings are not influenced purely by her own experience, but also by her self-education over the years.

“Over the last forty years, I have read memoirs by Muslim women, Muslim dissidents, ex-Muslim dissidents; I have interviewed many. I have read histories of central Asia and the Middle East and travel memoirs. I have pored over photographic essays of these regions and visited paintings as well. Therefore, what I have to say is never merely based on my own personal experience,” said Chesler, who says that she seeks knowledge in order to understand her experience and benefit humanity with the insights she has learned.

The author says that she uses some of the insights she has learned by attempting to help Muslim and ex-Muslim feminists and dissidents from being persecuted or murdered in honor killings.

Chesler has never returned to Afghanistan and says that she will likely not return to the country “in this lifetime.”

“An American Bride in Kabul” is scheduled for release on October 1.

An American bride in Kabul

Phyllis Chesler and her Afghan husband. (Al Arabiya)

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