I grew up in Southeast Asia in the 1980s, while the Soviets and Afghans waged a brutal war next door. My childhood is filled with events that seemed normal at the time, but in retrospect, they’re horrific. I remember going to the market and watching my mom fend off Afghani orphans who offered to carry her groceries for spare change. I remember the first time my friends brought over a box of bullets and asked to store them in our fridge.
I remember those tense few months when my father stood trial for crimes he did not commit. I remember—more than once—walking down the street or being on a crowded bus and feeling a strange hand grope my private parts. I remember learning that my sister had been raped, and then that my best friend had been raped, too. I remember, but I want more than anything to forget.
Back then, violence was everywhere. Ghoulish predators hid in crowds, getting their hands on whatever they could. Religious repression seeped through our society’s safety net and made victims out of thousands of young girls. But nobody talked about it. Hush, my mother told me. Cover your head, that will stop them from looking at you, we told each other when something happened.
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