It Is Your Enemy Who Is Dock-Tailed: A Memoir


Growing up in Afghanistan, Hamid Zaher did not feel like a man and was more comfortable in the company of women. He eventually realized he was a homosexual-a subject that was taboo in his country and one that was never discussed. In this memoir,
Zaher tells the story of his life journey as a gay man in an attempt to acknowledge the existence of homosexuality in Afghanistan.

First published in 2009 in Farsi under the title Beyond Horror, It Is ...

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Growing up in Afghanistan, Hamid Zaher did not feel like a man and was more comfortable in the company of women. He eventually realized he was a homosexual-a subject that was taboo in his country and one that was never discussed. In this memoir,
Zaher tells the story of his life journey as a gay man in an attempt to acknowledge the existence of homosexuality in Afghanistan.

First published in 2009 in Farsi under the title Beyond Horror, It Is Your Enemy Who Is Dock-Tailed addresses the discrimination and abuse gay men face in Zaher's home country. He discusses his feelings and emotions as he grew into adulthood realizing he was not like the other boys and men in his neighborhood. He narrates his story of trying to leave the country, only to experience additional discrimination.

It Is Your Enemy Who Is Dock-Tailed shows how one man set goals, persevered, and attempted to overcome discrimination and abuse that was tied to his sexual orientation.
By sharing his personal experiences, Zaher hopes to restore rights to others who have been denigrated and neglected in Afghanistan's backward society.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A homosexual Afghan man soberly details his journey from a discriminative country toward freedom. Originally published in Farsi in 2009, this affecting memoir recounts Zaher's experiences as a fearful gay man growing up in Afghanistan's capital city, Kabul. Armed with uncommon resilience, the author stayed true to his feelings, in defiance of the region's widely accepted, sometimes violent targeting of homosexuals. Despite the palpable sense of fear, he continually hoped the exposure of his sexuality would inspire others to join him in solidarity. From early adolescence, Zaher "did not feel like a man from the inside" and exhibited "girly traits" and affectations that he neither concealed nor was particularly ashamed of. To avoid being ostracized, the author writes of how he spoke "from the depth of my throat in a thick voice." Eventually, after being frequently victimized because of his sexuality, he developed a stern desire to abandon the country altogether via impassioned appeals to the U.N., much to his family's horror. His attraction to older men ushered in the first of many awkward and dangerous sexual encounters, and his need to be acknowledged increased as well. Zaher paints a harrowing portrait of his life through the late 1980s and '90s as a college student, then struggling in Pakistan after 9/11, working in Iran, then employing a guide to help him border-hop through Turkey, culminating in a botched attempt to reach Greece by boat. Zaher's recollections conclude in 2008 when, after his deliberate troublemaking, the U.N. relocates him to Canada as a refugee. The memoir calls out the regressive "cultural ignorance" and superstitions of Afghan society, where "no one knows a homosexual except himself or herself." In Afghanistan and elsewhere, leading a nontraditional lifestyle can be a death sentence, just like the indictment for government conspiracy that resulted in his father's execution. And still, never sulky or morose, Zaher exudes hope for a "spontaneous transformation in the traditional society of Afghanistan," however impossible it may seem. A remarkable, eye-opening autobiography that's as relevant as it is revelatory.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781475933666
  • Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/13/2012
  • Pages: 302
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.68 (d)

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A Memoir
By Hamid Zaher

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2012 Hamid Zaher
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4759-3366-6

Chapter One

Babe Nadare

On one hot summer day in 1983, when I was a nine-year-old kid, I saw a poor, blind, old man in the Kheyrkhane neighborhood of Kabul. He had old,gray,worn-outAfghanistaniattireonhisbody,ared-beadedQandaharicap on his head, and worn leather shoes on his feet. He was sitting on the steps of a mud-brick shop with wooden beams, and the mud roof protruded outward, over the two steps to the door. The old man was sitting on the steps in the shade, resting for a while. Close to him were seven or eight naughty children, crouching and ready to take flight. They stomped their feet on the ground and shouted, "Babe nadare, babe nadare" (Dad has no, Dad has no). They slowly crept toward the old man and threw pebbles at him. The old man was calm, patient, and so forbearing that as long as a pebble didn't hit him, he wouldn't move. A lot of pebbles lay close to him. When a pebble hit him, he would get up and run after the kids, who would quickly run away in all directions. The old man would sit down again on the steps, and the kids, crouching and stomping their feet, would sing again, "Babe nadare, babe nadare," and throw pebbles toward him. Thus the old man's encounter with the kids had become a daily ritual, and anyone passing by the road would often see this incident. At first I thought that the old man's name was Babe Nadare.

* * *

A few days later I was walking in the afternoon along the dirt road in the Pansad Famili neighborhood of Kabul, where high government officials lived. Heaps of rubble and garbage had formed along that road in the sewage bed, and each of those heaps blocked the sewage. Of course this was one of the rare parts in the northwest of Kabul that was equipped with piped water system, where sewage ran. There I saw another old man who entered that road from one of the alleyways on the left side. This old man was entirely different from the first one. He had dark brown skin and was taller and younger than the first one. He continued walking alongside the rubble and garbage dumps in the direction opposite me. About twelve dirty children, with dirty and sweaty faces and dirty and worn-out clothes, followed him. They shouted, "Babe nadare, babe nadare," and threw stones at him. The old man seemed in a great hurry and was agitated. Each time he stopped in panic and looked back, the kids would freeze in their places; as soon as he started walking, they would attack him like a swarm of bees. The tall, frightened old man walked quickly with his long legs, but the kids walked even faster, as if they had wings. I thought that the name of this old man was also Babe Nadare. It was a bit strange for me that both men called Babe Nadare were tormented by the children!

* * *

A few weeks after that, I was walking with my cousin Rakhshane, heading from my house toward her house. She was younger than me but smarter. My house was a couple of kilometers away from her house. This time I saw a third old man. He was walking along the road in our direction. Five or six kids were stalking him and shouting, "Babe nadare, babe nadare," and throwing stones at him. As we walked along, the number of children grew. We were close to him. Rakhshane, who had blue eyes, white skin, a large mole on her face, and blonde messy hair and blonde eyebrows, ran toward him and shouted, "Babe nadare, babe nadare."

This time it was hard for me to understand why children would torment anyone who had the name Babe Nadare. I asked Rakhshane, "How many Babe Nadares are there? I saw one in front of your house. I saw another one in the Pansad Famili neighborhood. Now I see this one. Which one is Babe Nadare?"

"None of them has any."

"What is it that they don't have?"

She looked at me with embarrassment, her eyes narrowed with wrinkles appearing around them, and her face became red with shame. She opened her mouth shyly, brought it close to my ear, and said softly, "They don't have a penis."

"Wow! I thought their names were Babe Nadare."

Rakhshane looked toward him and said laughingly, "Babe nadare; babe nadare."

I asked, "Why do they say that?"

"Because he did not marry."

"So what? Why they torment him?"

"Let's go and call him from behind!"

"Why call at him?"

"We'll have fun."

I didn't like this and said angrily, "No, it isn't fun for me."

Rakhshane, realizing my unhappiness, got embarrassed and did not speak anymore. That's how I learned both the meaning of babe nadare, and that the children just wanted to have a little fun. I looked at the kids and realized that they were really having fun. Most of them laughed and shouted, "Babe nadare, babe nadare," and threw stones at him. But two of the kids looked angry and were aggressive: they came closer to him and hit his body directly with the pebbles. While we headed in the same direction, we saw the first pebble hit the back of his leg. He turned back angrily and ran after the children. All the children who were ready to escape took flight at once. But we did not intend to harm him and were not ready to run away. When he turned back, the children ran further away, and we remained at a short distance from him. He had a few pebbles in his hand to defend himself. When I saw him up close with pebbles in his hands, I was frightened. I thought that the old man was mad and would hit anyone whom he could grab. He lifted his hand with pebbles in it, but when he looked into our eyes, he realized that we did not intend to bother him, and he ran after the children who were escaping. Every time a stone hit him, he angrily chased the kids, and the kids ran away with greater speed.

At first, seeing this adventure and the memory of babe nadare was not so important and scary for me ... until I noticed strange and gradual changes in my own body. Then all this became a permanent scare and a nightmare in my mind.

Chapter Two


The word izak in colloquial Afghanistani Persian language actually means a hermaphrodite—that is, someone who is neither a woman nor a man. But this word is used in several other meanings as well, such as a girlish boy, a boyish girl, an effeminate man, a sterile man, an infertile woman, dock-tailed, impotent, lowly, coward, timid, a cuckold, or an incompetent. In the minds of most Afghanistanis, this word is extremely ridiculous and funny, and at the same time it is detested and loathsome. Children use this word to make fun of others. Elderly people use this word to taunt, to reproach, to insult, to humiliate, to belittle, to demean, to vilify, to ridicule, and to revile.

I had many feminine traits in my childhood, but others did not notice it because of my very young age. For instance, I always wanted to be in the company of girls, and I was interested in girlish games, such as playing with dolls, hide-and-seek, blindman's buff, and so on. I always wanted to be with girls inside my house or close to my house; I was afraid of going to faraway places and of playing aggressive boys' games. With the exception of a few neighborhood boys my own age, others did not know of these inclinations of mine. Neighborhood boys would call me to come out and play outside. I would open the door and peek outside, but I would not come out and would tell them, "I don't want to play."

They would say, "Why do you peek out through the door like a girl? Come on outside and talk to us, you bimbo! Why do you always stay at home like the girls?" Going out of my house with boys, alone and without girls, was frightful for me. Some of the neighboring boys called me "Hamid bimbo."

I not only had girly traits, but also did not feel like a boy. My male organ felt like an extra thing in my body, and I was ashamed of having it. I was envious of girls and thought to myself, Lucky them! They don't have any extra thing hanging between their thighs to be ashamed of. When I heard boys muttering things like "dick" and "fuck you," I wondered to myself, How strange! They have a dick and are not ashamed of calling it a dick!

As I grew older, my girly traits and habits gradually became clear to those around me. Whenever I spoke, neighboring children and extended family members immediately repeated my words like a girl and said in a soft drawn accent, "Oh, sister!"

My best memories of my childhood are of girls who were my adopted sisters. I always played with them, and whenever I saw one of them, I felt extremely happy.

Sometimes we played jezbazi: we drew blocks on the earth and jumped from one block over to another with one leg, and pushed one round pebble with one foot from one block to the other.

Sometimes we played panjaq: we threw up one of five small, round pebbles, and before it fell down, we would catch it together with the other four pebbles on the floor. Whoever won the game would throw up the pebble with one hand and, with the same hand, hit on the back or the hand the other girl, picking up the pebble before it fell on the floor. The game of panjaq was very exciting for me. Most of the time one of my adopted sister named Farzane, who was the daughter of my mother's uncle, would win the game, and she would hit the back of my hand or slap or claw my back. Each time she threw the pebble up and hit the back of my hand, I would be frightened to death and would scream.

Sometimes we played Cheshm bandakan, or hide-and-seek. We would go inside a room and close the eyes of one girl with a scarf, and other girls would run around the room away from her. The blindfolded girl would try to catch one of the others. When she touched one, it was the turn of the girl who was caught to close her eyes with the scarf. Whenever a girl with closed eyes came close to me, I would scream and would be so frightened, as if she wanted to eat me alive.

Sometimes we played ghelghelak bazi, or tickling one another. Some of the boys who saw me playing the tickling game with girls would become jealous of me and would say, "You are very clever, Hamid. You are tickling the girls by deceit and having fun!"

What they said would surprise me, and I would say, "What are you talking about? I have no idea what are you saying."

After hearing those words the girls, would be shocked and would keep their distance from me. But soon they would trust me again because they knew I had no feelings for them. I felt myself as a part of them, and they too felt as if I was a part of them, and they would tell the boys, "Get lost. What we do is none of your business." This retort by the girls would make me happy, and I would tell myself, Well, it's nice that they consider me as one of them. Some of the boys also wanted to play tickling with us, but the girls would strongly oppose it and would not allow them to come close. Sometimes they preferred to stop playing the game rather than allowing the boys to join them. I inferred from the girls' unhappiness that because the boys did not participate in other games of the girls and wanted to play only the tickling game, the girls didn't like it.

I always maintained a close friendship with a large number of girls. In later years, upon reaching puberty, each one of them would marry one after the other and go away from me; others who came from religious families would hide from me. Their distancing was unbearable for me.

* * *

In childhood, boys would call me Hamide (a feminine form of Hamid), girl, bimbo, or izak. Whenever I danced in parties, all men, young and old, would laugh at me and say, "Wow! He dances exactly like a girl!" Their laughter would sadden me; I would go and sit in a corner and would no longer dance. When people laughed at the way I spoke or acted and called me names, it would break my heart to pieces. I lost my spirit and my confidence day by day. I became a coward and was isolated. Some people commented on me and expressed their opinions. Some said, "He is izak." Some said, "No, he is not izak. He is sissy." Some said, "He is neither izak nor sissy; he was a girl in his mother's womb, and later God changed his mind and converted him into a boy. God thought it was necessary for him to be born as a boy."

* * *

Spring 1988, Kabul

When I was in grade eight in school, Mazdak, my brother-in-law, was about thirty years old. Mazdak had earned a postgraduate degree from Kabul Polytechnic School in building roads and canals. One day when I was sitting at home and talking, Mazdak looked at me with extreme hatred and anger and said sharply, "Hamid, you are no longer a child. Don't speak softly like a girl. You are a man now, and you should speak like a man." His hateful glance and sharp tone hurt me a lot.

There was too much ignorance in society. Time was never favorable to me. Finally, time's cruelties forced me to adapt myself to society in order to avoid headaches. To achieve peace, I tried to change myself. As a first step, I always preferred to remain silent. If I had to, I tried hard to speak from the depth of my throat in a thick voice, so no one would mimic me. In my actions I tried to present myself as brave and bold so that no one would call me a girl or izak. As a result of a long period of play acting and imposing the play acting on myself, I gradually became an actor. But behind the play acting, the original character never changed and ultimately all the acting came to naught. Of course the hardships of life and hard physical work also hardened me. In economic terms, those were bad days indeed. During the government of Hafizullah Amin in 1979, when I was five years old, my father was arrested on charges of opposition to the regime, and he was executed. My father was a military officer in the past. In those days the government of Afghanistan, after the death of military officers, gave their survivors full retirement salary plus a goods coupon for a lot of commodities. But after executing my father, the government gave us only half of the pension of a lowly government employee. Even for that my mother had to run around a lot. Not even a good part of our mediocre life could be provided for with that amount. My mother used to run a bee-keeping business in the village, and she somehow managed to make ends meet. We come originally from the village of Chahardeh in the provincial town of Ghourband, in the province of Parvan, sixty-five kilometers northwest of Kabul. When I was seven years old, we moved to Kabul and settled there. Yet we did not have a source of income in Kabul and depended on the village. I began to do hard physical work from my early childhood. Each day after school closed, I worked as a porter with a one-wheel wheelbarrow.

In addition to play acting, the hard physical labor and long hardships of life enabled me to assume the appearance of a regular boy. Although I became "normal," and no one objected to the way I spoke or behaved, I did not feel like a man from the inside. If someone told me that I was a man or that I would marry in the future and would have children, I would feel unhappy. It was the same as if someone told a girl that she would marry a woman in the future and become a father.

Sexual Feelings

When I was in grade eight, I saw my classmates and other boys of my age talking about girls and showing their interest in them. But I had no feelings for girls. I would think that perhaps a few months later I would take interest in girls. However, I noticed that, contrary to other boys, I was interested in older men. Even before this point, some older men seemed attractive to me. But then they were attractive to me physically, not sexually. In this period I became sexually interested in older men, especially those ten years or older than me. Older men, with large frames and hairy chests, seemed more attractive to me. Whenever I went to public baths or to the river for swimming in Ghourband, my birthplace, I saw older men in wet shorts with their organs showing, and I would stare. Some of them took off their shorts, and I saw their organs directly. This would make my heart throb, and my whole body would shake.

At first I thought that perhaps this was a temporary and reversible attraction, and in the future I would lose interest in them. I tried to help myself change my inclination from men to women. For this reason I tried to stay close to girls so as to develop an interest in them. But this made me feel like a fool; I felt no attraction to them because I felt myself as a part of them. If I tried to pay no attention to men so that my attraction to them would go away from my mind, but an irresistible attraction drew me to them involuntarily like a magnet. I felt pleasure from looking at them, and I felt the need to mix with them.

When I was in grades ten and eleven at school, my attraction to older men increased greatly. Wherever I went, I would gaze at the organs of older men. If I dreamed at night, I always saw men in my dreams having sex with me; I never dreamed of a woman. I would see myself in dreams like a woman, with whom the man was having sex. This would make me come.

Occasionally I felt like I was a woman while awake. Sometimes when I went to bed at night, I felt like having soft, large breasts that softly ached and made me restless. In such a state, I felt the need for the hands of a man who could press my breasts with his fingers and hands so that the pain in my breasts would go away. Out of unhappiness and restlessness, I would lie on the floor or press my chest against the mattress so that I no longer would feel those imaginary painful breasts. Gradually I forgot my painful imaginary breasts, but I started feeling my shoulders were curved and soft, and my waist was thin and delicate. Again, I felt the need for a man's hand to press my shoulders and waist so I could feel calm and peaceful. I would turn and twist out of restlessness, but the restlessness would reach its peak. At the height of my restlessness, I would feel a depression in place of my testicles. Again I would feel the need for a man who could insert his organ in my depression so that my restlessness would go away. In such a state, when I pressed my testicles with my hands, they would feel exactly like a vagina in place of that imaginary depression that I felt inside me.


Excerpted from IT IS YOUR ENEMY WHO IS DOCK-TAILED by Hamid Zaher Copyright © 2012 by Hamid Zaher. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


PART ONE....................5
PART TWO....................11
PART THREE....................21
PART FOUR....................35
PART FIVE....................55
PART SIX....................69
PART SEVEN....................105
PART EIGHT....................125
PART NINE....................201
PART TEN....................221
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