This was written in 2005 in an email to family and friends
This is about women of Afghanistan and their struggle
Reading about the struggle for peace and freedom by the women of Afghanistan will probably bring you to tears. To see it in reality, is, on the other hand, extremely inspiring. Afghanistan has been a victim of over 25 years of continuous civil war and 8 years of immense oppression under the Taliban, where women were subjected to laws, under a religious disguise, which completely disregarded their worth and dignity as a human being. Some women I spoke to recounted stories of being beaten in public for showing merely their ankles’. There was another story of a woman who allegedly murdered her husband and was arranged to be executed in a football stadium. The boy who cleaned up later recounted that as she fell onto the ground in religious supplication for mercy, a bullet shot through her head, with her brains splattering all around her.
My experiences with Afghan women also showed me the true strength and determination of a woman. To be hidden behind a veil covering everything but a net of holes for them to see through is one thing. Being subjected to ridiculous rules by the Ministry of Vice and Virtue was another.
Though the Taliban had been ousted out of power in 2001, many women still wear the burqua (veil) because they feel insecure in the streets. Some of them even told me that the burqua has become part of the Afghan culture. I did try wearing the burqua but could not even last for more than an hour. I practically felt like a ghost- to everyone else, I was completely inexistent. I was just a blue figure without a face, without a character and without life. How did they live in a world where they did not actually ‘live’ and when they tried to, every gesture, every sway, every smile and every noise was regulated by the government? It was like being a prisoner in your home.
Yet beneath the burqua weren’t despaired, agonized and lifeless women. They had ambitions, dreams and hopes for their futures. And every single one of them wanted to play a part in the rebuilding of their country. I never thought I would ever see a feminist movement in my life, less a peaceful one! Even the little girl, Sunbol whom I am sponsoring, aged 11, displayed such a strong ambitions to become a ‘kidney doctor’ (she is an orphan and suffering from kidney failure). Other young children I spoke to in schools listed out a string of things they wanted to do for their country. A school I visited, Lycee Malalai, truly showed me the true spirit of Afghan girls. I was there for a talk by the founder of an NGO, JAHAN. At the end of it, the Principal addressed the school. Though I did not understand what she was saying, a girl next to me translated the speech. I was extremely surprised by the tone and passion of the principal and particularly how the Afghan girls who voluntarily sat there for the talk was responding to her. She spoke about the need for women to progress, and the impact of education in building them up into women of great calibre; to win the respect of the men; and to change the tide of gender perceptions in the country. The speech, I thought was suited for university students in gender-studies lectures. But here there were little girls of age 10 years listening to such speeches. It was exceptionally remarkable!