Monika Hauser, an Italian citizen, born in 1959 in Switzerland, is a gynecologist and director of the women’s aid association Medica Mondiale in Cologne, Germany. In 1992, in the middle of the Bosnian war, she opened a therapy center in the city of Zenica for women victims of rape and war trauma. Now more than 80 Bosnian women doctors, nurses, therapists, and other professionals work there. She also founded projects for victims of sexual violence in Kosovo, Albania, and Afghanistan. Medica Mondiale supports local women’s organizations in other countries, including Indonesia, Iraq, and Congo.
A hot wind blew through Kabul. In 2002, Monika Hauser, who had opened a therapy center for women victims of rape in the middle of the Bosnian war and later founded projects in Kosovo and Albania, flew to Afghanistan to care for women and girls traumatized by war. Monika Hauser visited the women’s prison in Kabul along with two colleagues from the international women’s support organization Medica Mondiale, active in Kabul since early 2002. The prison was dilapidated, the food awful, the prisoners often beaten. Most women were imprisoned for “crimes against morality": refusing to enter forced marriages or leaving violent husbands. Depressed, the doctor left the prison. In the entrance, she met a prisoner’s brother and daughter. The prisoner’s son was allowed to visit his mother but the daughter had to stay outside. “Only one person,” the guard had ordered, and the prisoner’s brother sent in the son. Monika Hauser saw the girl’s empty look – panic, doubt, abandonment, and complete hopelessness. The entire misery of Afghan women and children, terrorized by war and male violence, was reflected in these eyes. Monika could not stop herself from crying. “What is wrong with that woman?” asked the guard mystified. When it was explained, he said: “I am not a bad person, let the girl visit her mother.” “This scene reflects how completely arbitrary men can be,” Monika Hauser said later. “There is a conspiracy between men in the families, police, judicial system, and in the mosques, putting women at their mercy. Violence is everywhere, but women have never experienced anything else and don't even recognize and name it. They just say ‘I feel bad.’” But there is a ray of light. Since October 2003, ten members of Medica Mondiale are taking care for 150 women in the prisons of Kabul and Herat. They have succeeded in winning the releases of over 90 prisoners.