11 April 2021
by Shamayel Shalizi
Berlin Apartments Ain’t Shit
I posted this story on my personal instagram in February, but after the passing of France's newest laws against brown women, I thought I'd re-tell this story here. As you can see in the above screenshot, my great friend Parvin (who modelled Blingistan's third collection) wrote about a peculiar incident that happened in her apartment building in Berlin.
To summarise: a neighbour of Parvin's complained to another neighbour that Parvin had too many male visitors coming in and out of her apartment. Parvin, an Afghan woman who fled Kabul to Berlin in the 2015 migration of refugees, was flabbergasted. Not only did this neighbour, a white German man, take issue with who was coming over to Parvin's apartment, but he was also scared to air his grievances with Parvin directly, for fear that one of her male visitors may "cause damage to his car". Instead, he decided to stew about it/gossip to other neighbours. For context, Parvin has been living in this apartment building for over three years, and I too, have lived in this building with her.
Do brown men oppress brown women or is that strictly the white man’s job? This is why intersectional feminism is the only feminism worth a damn.
A white German man complaining that Parvin has too many male visitors? What in the absolute fuck? And then proceeds to gossip to others, for fear that her "visitors" may retaliate and break his car?! Huh?! (Also why the car Herr Oppressor? You live in Berlin, a place with some of the most advanced public transportations in the world).
So what if Parvin has many male visitors? Can't a social woman who pays rent invite her friends over to her house? Since the emphasis of Herr Oppressor was the male visitors, insinuating prostitution well...Prostitution is legal in Germany, and Parvin is a single mother, and can do as she pleases- isn't this the very reason why Germany voted to open their borders to Afghan refugees in 2015? Isn't this the liberation of Afghan women the Western world has been screaming about since 9/11? Aren't white men the number one customer of PoC prostitutes the world over?!
This isn't the first time Parvin has had issues with her German neighbours. She is constantly policed in other ways whether it has to do with sound coming from her apartment in the middle of the afternoon, or her receiving a package in the mail. I noticed something instantly when I was living with her at this apartment. We would get constant looks when we were moving in and out of the building because we are two non-Germany women who were always in and out, busy, empowered, looking fly as fuck, and actually smile and enjoy life! We say hallo to these salty, hostile neighbours in the hallways and they run into their apartments locking the door out of fear what?! we will eat them!? Or turn them brown!? What is going through these people's heads?! How in the fuck an entire world got brainwashed into thinking that white men (and white women!) have the answers to feminism and liberation is beyond me.
Intersectional Feminism: The Only Type of Feminism
I did not learn how to be strong, critically think, empathise and just simply be myself through "feminism" in the West. And I know for Parvin, it's the exact same thing. White "feminism" is just white hetero-patriarchy and supremacy. It simply cannot align with a BIPOC/BAME heritage, global south lived experience and brown skin.
Parvin and I grew up in the same house in Kabul, Karte- Se, yadesh bakhair*. There are things she and other Afghan women in my life taught me that are holistic, grounding, purer ways to approach the liberation of ALL women (all people!) that the Sex and the City-watching masses of white women cannot even comprehend, let alone fight for, so that their men wouldn't act like this twat, Herr Oppressor, 24 hours a day.
Though the liberation of Afghan women (and other non-white women) looks very different than what the West portrays it as/bases their invasion on, there are still many problems in the country- more than ever before. What else would happen after 50 years of war and foreign involvement? Patriarchy is GLOBAL, no doubt about that, but incorporating the voices of BIPOC/BAME women is the ONLY way to liberation. How do we make you listen!?
"Come to Germany to be "free", but we WILL oppress you and prevent you from being "free"'. It's just such a perfect metaphor. To me, Herr Oppressor sounds more fitting of the adjectives given to our people: "backwards", "barbaric" and close-minded. And this man is from the same stock of people who run around the world invading countries, dropping bombs, and stealing resources, in the name of "progression". We come and live in these people's countries for safety only to find the most miserable people - happy and secure people do not act like this.
This is about the policing and hyper-sexualisation of Afghan women in the West by White men (and women). Our bodies were used to justify the post 9/11 invasion. Remember Laura Bush and the burqa? Our "unliberated" Afghan bodies have then been re-used to measure the war efforts (see Bibi Aisha, and Malala Yousufzai). In reality, we do NOT need the West's bullshit "feminism" which makes your women, who are soldiers in Afghanistan, have a higher chance of being domestically abused by your men than dying fighting in the occupation of Afghanistan. Whose men are the oppressors? Whose women are unliberated?
I have been an Afghan woman in Kabul, in Berlin, and in the Balkans. I don't know everything but I do know this: I arrived to Kabul unempowered, unliberated, without a backbone and miserable as to be expected of a woman detached from her real homeland. After three years with my people- men and women- phew! They prepared me! I have gotten into actual fist fights with grown French men after rebuking their advances because "who did I think I was so free?" wearing a mini-skirt in Paris as an Afghan woman, enjoying my life. I have had a British/American grown man tell me- in public- upon hearing I was Afghan:
"So does that mean I could go to the army recruitment centre right now, sign up to fight in Afghanistan, get deployed and rape villages full of little girls who look like you?"
Just these two moments are telling enough that we as Afghan women are hyper-policed and over-sexualised all over the West.
Nazi Punks Fuck Off
If white women want to stay oppressed, let their men act like Herr Oppressor so long as they get to benefit from their white privilege, that's on them. At 28, I have given up on understanding white people and their strange culture, or trying to be their comrade because they silence non-white women. However, white people the world over are KILLING Afghan women inside Afghanistan and in the West. Working with foreign governments who also oppress and kill our women (i.e. Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, "Israel"). White men rape us in the West AND back home in Afghanistan. That British/American man only vulgarly addressed what many before him have done already. What's worse is it's not just the literal violence, but the breaking down of our spirits, hearts and minds which disconnects us from our own Afghan blood and the resilience and strength that has kept my people alive for thousands of years. Our relationship with ourselves, each other and our men gets hurt. How can a hurt Afghan woman reeling from an American soldier raping in her in Ghazni heal? How can a bullied and tormented Afghan woman in high school in Frankfurt heal? How can these women continue their ancestor's struggles? This is psychological torture.
Why do white people do this? Because THEY have trauma. British, American, German, French, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese men and women have carried out some of the most inhumane acts on the human body on the bodies of PoCs for the past 400 years. Their appetite is insatiable. I highly recommend Dr Joy DeGruy Leary's findings on Post Traumatic Slave Disorder, that explains this much better than I can. This affects all of us.
It's important to note that this entire post was inspired after hearing Parvin's story. She is not the first Afghan woman I have spoken to about this. These are all things that Afghan women in Afghanistan discuss- as intersectional feminism is the only type of feminism we know. There is no Afghan woman in Afghanistan who thinks 9/11 was done by 19 Saudi amateur pilots, nor is there any Afghan woman in Afghanistan who looks at the whites for advice on her own feminism. Since Afghans in Afghanistan have been oppressed by the West through war and neo-colonialism, they do not have the lived experience of being Afghan in places where the people are not majority Afghans. Assimilation itself is killing our women's spirit.
Where you are raised and how many white people are around fetishising, Orientalising, policing, hate crime-ing, and discriminating against you is KEY to this conversation. As Parvin grew up in Afghanistan, and arrived in the West as a grown woman, she saw the sinisterness of white feminism/white liberation almost immediately. That's not always the case with Afghan women who spent their entire lives in the West.
Afghans in Afghanistan do not want white people's lives in the West. White does not equal right, the West is not the best, so freedom and liberation cannot be measured only in this white supremacist mindset. They may want stability and to be at peace with their family, focusing on other things, safe, but don't for one second think an Afghan woman who immigrated to the West- especially as an adult- look at white women longingly. No. We want to be ourselves everywhere and that means being AFGHAN.
I am more than what a white man or woman thinks of me. Or thinks of my people and land. I am not just Afghan, I am many other things. And so are you.
To all the women in the West who have similar stories to Parvin's- celebrate that! Who are haters? Insecure, ignorant, jealous people who are miserable with themselves. Iftikhar ko! We are not white!
I might seem focused on only Afghanistan but this is something that occurs to people all over the global south. These conversations need to be happening in every group of people however they self-identify so that together, as a united Global South (including diasporas, refugees, displaced people and people who were forcibly moved from their ancestral lands) can be liberated from these whites. Do you think my liberation means anything if the women in Cuba are oppressed by American embargoes? No. She is my sister even if we are not from the same nation. Our liberations intersect. We are not free until we are all free.
yadesh bakhair: bless its’ memory
Iftikhar ko: take pleasure