On the Line with: Torpekai
Torpekai is one of the many very brave women in Afghanistan who has turned the injustice and cruelty in her life into strength, and used it to help others.
Torpekai married at the age of 20, and she and her husband were happily married for about ten years. Together, they had one son and two daughters. Five years ago, tragedy struck Torpekai's family: while she and her children were visiting her mother, someone murdered her husband, stabbing him 9 times. Torpekai found his body when she returned home from her mother's house.
A little over a month later, while Torpekai was still in deep mourning, her husband's cousin demanded that she marry him or risk losing her children. Torpekai didn't want to marry him, and pleaded to her father-in-law. But as Torpekai's husband's cousin was an influential and powerful man in their village, her father-in-law felt powerless to stop the marriage. Unwilling to settle for this injustice, Torpekai decided that she would go to the police for help. Instead, she was arrested for her husband's murder. At the trial, her mother and brother testified that she was in their house that night. The only "evidence" presented against her was her husband's cousin testimony that he found blood on their door. She was convicted of murdering her husband and was given a sentence of 10 years.
After 4 years, her father-in-law came forward to tell the court that Torpekai was innocent and that she was wrongly convicted. He confirmed the mother's testimony that Torpekai was in her mother's house at the time of the killing. She was released, and went to live with her mother.
But Torpekai refused to become bitter about her experiences in prison. After her release, she knew she wanted to work with women who were incarcerated-- many unjustly, just as she had been. After organizational cuts forced her out of a kindergarten class for the children living in the prison with their mothers, she learned of WAW's Children's Support Center (CSC).
Today, she's a night caretaker. She helps children with their homework, feeds them dinner and plays games with them. Torpekai says she knows the pain of being away from her children. "I am proud to be a member of WAW today," she says. "WAW has realized my dream of somehow helping women who are in prison and their children. I am also able to live independently and support my children." We welcome her into our WAW family and gain so much from our association with her, as do the prison mothers and their children.