Aurora Nilsson

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Aurora Nilsson, also known as Rora Asim Khan (Västerhaninge 1 January 1894 - Södertälje 1972), was a Swedish writer who became known for her autobiographical novel about her experiences in Afghanistan during her marriage to an Afghan diplomat, Asim Khan, in the 1920s. A novel is based upon her story. Her divorce (1927) was at the time unique in Afghanistan, and her work gives a valuable insight in the life of a harem in contemporary 1920s Afghanistan, and is likely one of the first given by a Western woman in a marriage to a Muslim man.

Marriage[edit]

In 1925, Aurora Nilsson from Sweden studied art in Berlin in Germany, where she met and married the student in technique Asim Khan, the son of a former Afghan minister of government, who studied technique at the expense of the Afghan government. The Afghan embassy acknowledged the marriage after Nilsson signed a statement that she would accept Afghan customs and, some time in the future, convert to Islam. She never did convert, however.

She followed Khan to Afghanistan in 1926. During the journey to Afghanistan, Kahn changed, according to her, from a modern person to a man more and more aware of the Afghan customs the closer they came to Afghanistan, and abused Nilsson two times. In Kabul, Nilsson was severely shocked about her new living conditions and was not able to adjust herself to them: she was forced to wear a veil and was not allowed to leave the house except with her husband's permission, nor look out of the windows, or to talk when she visited a shop. She also discovered that her husband had a servant who was in fact his second wife. She aroused a lot of attention.

Her husband was not given any position, because she had not converted, and he gave her permission to visit the government, the royal court, and women in different positions to try to get him a position. In her book, she describes many people as well as many customs and events of contemporary Afghanistan. By help of Khan's aunt, who was a lady-in-waiting to the queen, she visited the royal court in Paghman and Darullaman, and includes descriptions in her book of queen Soraya Tarzi and the mother of the king, whose name she spells as Ollja Hassrat. Asked by the queen and the king's mother, she talked a lot about European customs with them.[1] She befriended the king's mother, whom she describes as influential and dominant, demonstrated dance and gymnastics for her and acted as her photographer.[2] She failed to acquire a position for Khan, and Khan threatened to kill or to sell her.[3] According to Nilsson, a German woman, the widow of an afridi, Abdullah Khan, had fled to the city with her children from her late husband's successor, was sold on public auction and bought free by the German embassy for 7.000 mark.[4]

In 1927, she managed to be granted a divorce with the support of the German embassy.[5] The divorce was unique, as it was not the custom for a woman to divorce a man.[6] The German embassy helped her to get a room in a hotel while she waited for money from Sweden to leave the country, but her divorce created a scandal in Kabul, and she was harassed, also by the officials she visited to acquire help. The officials denied divorce on the grounds that she was a Muslim, claimed she needed an Afghan passport to leave the country, and offered her money to return to her former husband. As she arrives at the border, she was again stopped with an offer of money if she returned to marriage. She declined with the words: "No, I do not need any money! I need nothing from Afghanistan! Only my freedom!"[7]

Aftermath[edit]

After her divorce, Aurora Nilsson returned to Sweden, where she published a book about her experiences (1928). In 1930, Nilsson married ice-hockey player Carl Abrahamsson.

The divorce between Khan and Nilsson made Khan "lose face" in Afghan society, and he was thereby prevented from any political post. In 1933, Asim Khan was executed after his assassination of three officials of the British embassy in Kabul.[8] He was motivated by the desire to create conflict between the pro-British king, Mohammed Nadir Shah, and Great Britain and bring about the fall of Nadir and the reinstallement of the deposed king Amanullah Khan. His act is considered to have contributed to the deposition of king Nadir later the same year.[9]

Work[edit]

  • Flykten från harem (English : Flight from harem) (1928)

In culture[edit]

Aurora Nilsson was the model for the character in the Swedish novel Gryningsflickan (The Girl of the Dawn) by Swedish writer Tomas Löfström (1986), which was rewarded with the prize "Novel of the Year" by Bra Böcker in 1986.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Rora Asim Khan (Aurora Nilsson): Anders Forsberg och Peter Hjukström: Flykten från harem, Nykopia, Stockholm 1998. ISBN 91-86936-01-8.
  2. ^ Rora Asim Khan (Aurora Nilsson): Anders Forsberg och Peter Hjukström: Flykten från harem, Nykopia, Stockholm 1998. ISBN 91-86936-01-8.
  3. ^ Rora Asim Khan (Aurora Nilsson): Anders Forsberg och Peter Hjukström: Flykten från harem, Nykopia, Stockholm 1998. ISBN 91-86936-01-8.
  4. ^ Rora Asim Khan (Aurora Nilsson): Anders Forsberg och Peter Hjukström: Flykten från harem, Nykopia, Stockholm 1998. ISBN 91-86936-01-8.
  5. ^ Rora Asim Khan (Aurora Nilsson): Anders Forsberg och Peter Hjukström: Flykten från harem, Nykopia, Stockholm 1998. ISBN 91-86936-01-8.
  6. ^ Rora Asim Khan (Aurora Nilsson): Anders Forsberg och Peter Hjukström: Flykten från harem, Nykopia, Stockholm 1998. ISBN 91-86936-01-8.
  7. ^ Rora Asim Khan (Aurora Nilsson): Anders Forsberg och Peter Hjukström: Flykten från harem, Nykopia, Stockholm 1998. ISBN 91-86936-01-8.
  8. ^ Rora Asim Khan (Aurora Nilsson): Anders Forsberg och Peter Hjukström: Flykten från harem, Nykopia, Stockholm 1998. ISBN 91-86936-01-8.
  9. ^ Rora Asim Khan (Aurora Nilsson): Anders Forsberg och Peter Hjukström: Flykten från harem, Nykopia, Stockholm 1998. ISBN 91-86936-01-8.

References[edit]

  • Rora Asim Khan (Aurora Nilsson): Anders Forsberg och Peter Hjukström: Flykten från harem, Nykopia, Stockholm 1998. ISBN 91-86936-01-8.