Afghan filmmaker, Sahra Mosawi-Mani is an award-winning documentarian, University Lecturer and founder of Afghanistan Documentary House, who lives in a society that has the highest rate of domestic violence and gender inequality in the world. She says, "I can see it. I can feel it. And, I have access to it in ways others don't."
In her latest documentary A Thousand Girls Like Me, Mosawi-Mani puts her camera to good use to share a remarkable story that portrays the power of action over fear. Her main subject is a young, obstinate, twenty-three year old Afghan woman named Khatera.
Mosaic-Mani's documentary follows Khatera in a battle to make her voice heard in order to combat abuse and discrimination against women among her own people. Khatera's story begins as a child, suffering physical abuse and numerous repeated rapes at the hands of her father. She suffered under his rule for over thirteen years. Several pregnancies were a result of her father's abuse where she was forced into early abortions. One child was miraculously spared. At the time of the documentary, Khatera’s daughter, Zainab, was three years old.
Khatera made many attempts to file charges against her father for his crimes but neither the Afghan police nor the legal system was willing to help her. Khatera's story was all too familiar. Desperate, her only hope to bring light the faulty Afghan judicial system and the women it rarely protects was to take her case to the media. A local television station took on her request to share her story. This outlet was her open door to justice but her bravery turned her family and community against her, her mother and her daughter.
The lives of Khatera, her mother and Zainab were in constant danger from her uncles because death was the only way they saw an end to the shame brought on their family and to exonerate their brother. Mosaic-Mani's film follows Khatera during the months she's fleeing from the uncles's death threats, living with her mother and daughter in safe houses while continuing to go through the never ending procedures of the legal system to get her father arrested and sentenced. Horrific twists and turns abound on Khatera's journey including the discovery that she's once again carrying her father's child.
Though devastated by the news Khatera refuses to give up seeking justice. Her next-steps reveal just how far she is willing to go to make sure her father will do no further harm.
Mosaic-Mani explains, "Afghanistan is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Getting justice for a victim of rape, or incest, is almost I'm possible." She says, "Some cases are highlighted in the media, but many remain unknown." Continuing, "My film wants to highlight the necessity for making 'unknown' cases known and confirm our need to fight against social ills and injustice (and, stop violence) against women." Mosaic-Mani doesn't share Khatera's story to concentrate on the suffering but hopes from her experience it becomes a deep cry for change.