By: Tehmina Durrani
When a woman with brains and beauty from a wealthy background decides to take her fate into her own hands and challenge the restrictions of a male-oriented, conservative society, the consequences can be devastating. Born into one of Pakistan's most influential families, Tehmina Durrani was raised in the privileged milieu of Lahore high society, and educated at the same school as Benazir Bhutto. Like all women of her rank, she was expected to marry a prosperous Muslim from a respectable family, bear him many children, and lead a sheltered life of air-conditioned leisure.
When she married Mustafa Khar, one of Pakistan's most eminent political figures, she continued to move in the best circles, and learned to keep up the public facade as a glamorous, cultivated wife, and mother of four children. In private, however, the story-book romance of the most talked-about couple in Pakistan rapidly turned sour. Mustafa Khar became violently possessive and pathologically jealous, and succeeded in cutting his wife off from the outside world.
For the course of the fourteen-year marriage, she suffered alone, in silence. When Tehmina decided to rebel, the price she paid was extremely high: as a Muslim woman seeking a divorce, she signed away all financial support, lost the custody of her four children, and found herself alienated from her friends and disowned by her parents. Following the divorce, she felt she had to tell her story.
When Pakistan publishers balked at the controversial nature of her manuscript, she published it herself. The book was a bombshell and shook Pakistani society to its foundations. Her at last was someone who had succeeding in reconciling her faith in Islam with her ardent belief in women's rights.
Tehmina's story, adapted now for western readers, provides extraordinary insights into the vulnerable position of women caught in the complex web of Muslim society.