Bamiyan Panorama

Bamiyan Panorama

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Widows in Afghanistan during the Taliban

The first major war was in 1979 when Afghanistan was invaded by the Soviets. 

'The 10-year Soviet occupation resulted in the killings of between 600,000 and two million Afghans, mostly civilians.'  (wikipedia article about Afghanistan)

Then there was the civil war from 1989-1996.  Believe it or not I could not find a number of deaths during the civil war, but it has got to be in the hundreds of thousands, if a few million people.  

This created how many widows... 100,000?  500,000? 

Then the Taliban invaded and took control.  Here are some of the rules they implimented for all women:

Taliban restrictions and mistreatment of women include the:
1- Complete ban on women's work outside the home, which also applies to female teachers, engineers and most professionals. Only a few female doctors and nurses are allowed to work in some hospitals in Kabul.
2- Complete ban on women's activity outside the home unless accompanied by a mahram (close male relative such as a father, brother or husband).
3- Ban on women dealing with male shopkeepers.
4- Ban on women being treated by male doctors.
5- Ban on women studying at schools, universities or any other educational institution. (Taliban have converted girls' schools into religious seminaries.)
6- Requirement that women wear a long veil (Burqa), which covers them from head to toe.
7- Whipping, beating and verbal abuse of women not clothed in accordance with Taliban rules, or of women unaccompanied by a mahram.
8- Whipping of women in public for having non-covered ankles.
9- Public stoning of women accused of having sex outside marriage.
10- Ban on the use of cosmetics. (Many women with painted nails have had fingers cut off).
11- Ban on women talking or shaking hands with non-mahram males.
12- Ban on women laughing loudly. (No stranger should hear a woman's voice).
13- Ban on women wearing high heel shoes, which would produce sound while walking. (A man must not hear a woman's footsteps.)
14- Ban on women riding in a taxi without a mahram.
15- Ban on women's presence in radio, television or public gatherings of any kind.
16- Ban on women playing sports or entering a sport center or club.
17- Ban on women riding bicycles or motorcycles, even with their mahrams.
18- Ban on women's wearing brightly colored clothes. In Taliban terms, these are "sexually attracting colors."
19- Ban on women gathering for festive occasions such as the Eids, or for any recreational purpose.
20- Ban on women washing clothes next to rivers or in a public place.
21- Modification of all place names including the word "women." For example, "women's garden" has been renamed "spring garden".
22- Ban on women appearing on the balconies of their apartments or houses.
23- Compulsory painting of all windows, so women can not be seen from outside their homes. 24- Ban on male tailors taking women's measurements or sewing women's clothes.
25- Ban on female public baths.
26- Ban on males and females traveling on the same bus.

27- Ban on flared (wide) pant-legs, even under a burqa.
28- Ban on the photographing or filming of women.
29- Ban on women's pictures printed in newspapers and books, or hung on the walls of houses and shops.                    (from

Imagine a widow:  She most likely has no 'male guardian' so she can not leave her house.  Literally.  How does she survive?  How does she shop for food?  How does she earn money for food? 

After the Taliban fell from power things changed, but we'll talk about that another time. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Italy turning into India?

When I was in India, a few certain places had rubbish (trash) piled on the side of the road.  Occasionally these piles of rubbish would be set on fire.  Not a roaring, out of control fire, but a smoldering fire.  You know - just to get rid of the trash......!   
(disclaimer:  MOST places in India I saw did NOT have piles of trash in the streets)

Now check out this article:

Naples: Exasperated residents set fire to rubbish  (bbc news article)

Burning rubbish in Naples (24 June 2011) 

Residents of the Italian city of Naples set fire to piles of rubbish overnight in protest at the government's failure to clear a backlog of more than 2,000kg of malodorous waste from the streets.
Firefighters tackled about 55 rubbish fires, some of them in piles of waste 2m (6ft) high.

The Camorra organised crime group controls most waste-collection services in Naples, Italy's third-biggest city.  Armed guards have been brought in to escort bin lorries as tensions rise.

Last month, the government mobilised the army to help clear rubbish from the streets after angry residents began setting fires to piles of bin-bags.  However, the Italian cabinet failed to approve a decree allowing waste to be transported to other regions.

In an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, mayor of Naples Luigi de Magistris said organised crime was putting residents at risk.  "Various groups want Naples to remain buried under rubbish... for political reasons or because of illegal interests," he told La Repubblica on Friday.  He also accused Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of failing to help, describing him as "having washed his hands, like Pontius Pilate".

Mr de Magistris, from the opposition Italy of Values party, was elected last month as voters turned against Mr Berlusconi in what was seen as a test of his popularity.  Earlier this month, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano visited Naples and declared the situation with the city's waste "alarming".

NOW, you are probably wondering why, in this 'modern and civilized' contry, is there a problem with rubbish piled in the streets?  Well.... it's complicated.  Blame it on the Mafia and corruption.  Here is another article that explains more reasons for this mess:

ROME, Italy (CNN) -- The garbage crisis in Naples encompasses the worst Italian clich├ęs, and in particular those of the southern part of this lovely peninsula: mismanagement, political interference, mafia profiteering and the ability of those responsible to deflect the attention and the blame elsewhere.
There is a popular saying here that roughly goes like this: everybody is competent enough (to find a solution) but nobody is responsible (for actually carrying it out).
In many parts of the world waste disposal is a business -- and usually it is a good business. Garbage can be transformed into various sources of energy and then sold for a profit. In Naples, garbage is also good business, but in the sense that millions, if not billions, of euros have been wasted -- and nobody really knows how.
The problem is as old and ugly as rotten trash. The region's dumps reached full capacity more than a decade ago, and since then a state of emergency has been declared every year. Eight different commissioners have been appointed, but they have all failed to solve the problem. State of emergency means government money: €1.8 billion (more than $2.5 billion) in emergency funds have been devolved to deal with the problem.

It is still difficult to find out where or how that money has been spent. Incinerators that were supposed to be built were never finished, either because the companies in charge of constructing them could not finish the job, or else because magistrates stopped the work, pending ongoing criminal investigations into alleged mafia involvement.
One Italian newspaper suggested that a good 20% of the money went to pay for the salaries of those in charge of coming up with a solution to the problem.
More worrying perhaps, is another suggestion: that the local mafia, known as the Camorra, is taking advantage of the situation. As the crisis has worsened over the years, so the Camorra's profits, estimated now at around €1 billion (roughly $1.45 billion), are alleged to have increased.

How does the local mafia make money? The Naples prosecutor in charge of environmental crimes says city government officials use the state of emergency to quickly award contracts which otherwise would have to be checked by complicated anti-racketeering legislation.
Once they receive the money, companies linked to the underworld dispose of the waste either in the open or, ironically, at regular city dumps, even if they are overflowing. The mafia clans have now managed to burrow their way so deeply into the system that every attempt to fix the problem has proved futile.

But why are citizens protesting now? Well, the government wants to re-open a previously shut dump to dispose of 3,700 tons of waste which is laying in the streets of Naples and surrounding areas. The problem is that when the site was closed years ago, locals were promised that a golf course would be built there. As a result, many residents invested savings to construct apartments and residences in the vicinity -- in some cases just a few yards away from the site.

They are now waking up to a mountain of trash instead of 18 holes. A rotten deal indeed.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Afghanistan in the 60's and 70's - part two.

Here are some more photos that I find quite interesting. 

Firstly - a nice street scene.  People walking, biking, and driving around.  This is Kabul in the late 60's I believe.

These are the normal looking woman you would see today if they weren't forced to become refugees, or forced to wear a burqa under the Taliban rule.

This is a medical research center with both men and women studying. 

Ariana Airline Flight Attendants in the 60's. 

Rush hour, note the nice buildings, street lights in the park, stoplight, etc...

Afghanistan used to be (and still is to some degree) full of orchards, fields, vineyards, etc.....  

Children's school - notice the lack of head coverings for most girls? 

A florist shop with apartments above it.  

Another street scene with little shops, and people going about their daily lives.

 And another street scene.

Fashionable women in a record store.

These are students at the University of Kabul sometime in the 60's or 70's.

School girls in the 60's I believe.

The campus of Kabul University. 

See more photos of Afghanistan before the wars here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Buddhas of Bamiyan

In the 500's the area of Bamiyan was a Buddhist Monestary where two huge Buddha statues were carved. As you can see in the photo on top of my blog the area is full of caves where generations of people lived. Also, in some of the caves, are ancient carvings and paintings showing Buddhist artwork.

The Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Xuanzang passed through the area around 630, and described Bamiyan as a flourishing Buddhist center "with more than ten monasteries and more than a thousand monks". He also noted that both Buddha figures were "decorated with gold and fine jewels" (Wriggins, 1995). Intriguingly, Xuanzang mentions a third, even larger, reclining statue of the Buddha. (from Wikipedia)

Up until 1979 (before the wars) Bamiyan was a tourist area with people coming from all over the world to see the Buddhas.

However, the Taliban invaded the Bamiyan area, forcing many of the residents out, and in 2001 blew up the statues.

Now this is what it looks like today.

The government has pledge to rebuild the statues and for a few years I thought that sounded like a great idea. However I was watching a video clip about Bamiyan today and an Afghan pointed out that if the statues are rebuilt then the whole thing will end up looking like Disneyland. I think I agree with that person's opinion.

Here's two videos that I found interesting:

Bamiyan Buddhas part 1

Bamiyan Buddhas part 2

Update as of May 18, 2012:

Stone Carvers return to the Bamiyan Valley (May 2012) 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Culturally senstivive, male approved, driving protest by Saudi women!

This article points out something that I don't normally see in mainstream media - cultural sensitivity.  These women just want to be able to drive themselves to where they want to go, right?  And they live in one of the strictest countries in the world.  So instead of going out driving in one big group like they tried to do in the 90's, they are encouraged to go out individually.  They are going to be wearing head coverings or veils (very important, proper, and respectable in that culture).  They are going to fly the Saudi flag and post photos of the King, which is not a sign of protest but of love for King and country.  Lastly they are going to try to get approval from male relatives before driving, which in that country is a 'validation' or 'approval' status.    I think the driving protest of the 90's didn't work because they did a Western style protest.  Just my opinion.... let's see what happens, shall we?  In my time zone, it is about 6:30 pm in Saudi Arabia so I guess the news will be giving us updates soon.  The article is below.

Saudi women plan Friday protests against driving laws

Another long-running Middle East political conflict is about to break out into the open, with unpredictable consequences. The protesters who will be taking to the street this time, though, will be in the driving seat, and wearing veils.

Saudi women plan Friday protests against driving laws
King Abdullah has promised more rights to women and said lifting the ban is 'a matter of time' Photo: AFP/GETTY
Saudi women campaigning for an end to laws banning them from driving have designated on Friday as their own day of direct action.
An online campaign, Women2Drive, urges those with international driving licences – so that they cannot be arrested purely on the grounds of being unqualified – to test the law.
They are being asked to do so individually, in contrast to the last incident of mass disobedience over the issue, in 1990, when 47 women who drove in convoy around the capital, Riyadh, in a show of strength.
They were quickly arrested, and many were ostracised and fired from their jobs.
That incident was seen as part of a social upheaval resulting from the arrival of thousands of western servicemen, and women, as part of the military force sent by the United States and others to retake Kuwait from Iraq. The US military insisted on the right of servicewomen with driving roles to keep their jobs. 

This time, protesters believe they have a greater chance of success. King Abdullah has promised more rights to women and said lifting the ban is "a matter of time", while even leading clerics have come out in support.
Earlier this month the king finally gave in to another long-running campaign – to force women's lingerie shops to recruit women shop assistants.
Among the campaign's supporters is Sheikh Ahmad Bin Abdul Aziz Bin Baz, whose late father was the Grand Mufti who first issued a fatwa, or decree, against women driving. "Fatwas may change with the changing times," he said in an interview.
On the other hand, conservative clerics have made a broad series of claims against the campaign, ranging from the mild to the extreme, with some claiming that it is part of a Shia plot to split the kingdom from its Sunni rulers and others saying it is a conspiracy "backed by secularists, the West and Jews".
One, Sheikh Ghazi al-Shamari, called for a woman who posted a video of herself driving on YouTube last month to be lashed in a women-only shopping mall.
In contrast to previous "days of rage" across the region, women are being asked to break the law as politely as possible, by flying the Saudi flag, posting pictures of the king in the windows – and seeking approval from male relatives.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Interview with a female journalist in Afghanistan

Female Afghan journalist: 'I have no plans to stop'

By Asieh Namdar, CNN
June 13, 2011
Mina Habib says it's important for Afghans to be journalists so they can tell the stories of their own people.
Mina Habib says it's important for Afghans to be journalists so they can tell the stories of their own people.
(CNN) -- Mina Habib is doing what would have been unthinkable during the Taliban era. She is one of the few working female Afghan journalists.
For Habib, journalism is a passion, but it also helps support her family. Her father is unemployed, and her mother is partially paralyzed by a stroke.
From Kabul, Habib talked to CNN's Asieh Namdar about the challenges for women in Afghanistan and the inspiration, fears and risks associated with being a female journalist.

Q: Why did you want to be a journalist? Weren't you scared by the obvious risks?
A: I was aware of all the risks involved. Being a female journalist is not socially accepted. But I wanted to highlight the problems of women and children in Afghanistan. I felt I had a responsibility to tell their stories. I knew it would be a huge challenge, and there would be many obstacles along the way, but I felt I had to do it because my country needs Afghan journalists to tell the stories of their own people, to convey the problems that still exist.

Q: Were you inspired by anyone in particular? What are your favorite stories to cover?
A: It was my childhood dream to be a journalist, but no one [person] really inspired me. I like covering politics, exposing corruption and doing stories that involve children. My proudest story was exposing people who use sick children as beggars. A government commission banned the practice after my story.
Q: Were you ever threatened while covering these types of stories?
A: Yes. One of my reports had to do with child labor/child smuggling and children being used for suicide attacks. It was a story that had to be told. I came home that evening and found a letter on my door. I don't know who wrote it. It said my life would be in danger, if I continued my work as a journalist. I continued! I was also wounded last year while covering a suicide bombing in Kabul. My family blamed all this on my work. But I have no plans to stop.

Q: What's been the reaction, in your family and otherwise, to you wanting to be a journalist?
A: Like many Afghan families, they were totally against it. They wanted me to be a teacher or doctor. My family was worried about how I would be viewed and my safety. They thought it would be a tough job for a woman. They never supported me in this area.
Others are skeptical as well. They consider journalism "immoral work." I can hear them asking, "What is a girl doing outside the home, being a journalist?"

Q: How has life changed for you since the fall of the Taliban?
A: During the Taliban era, women could not work or get an education. They lived in fear. I'm working now, doing something I love. In Kabul things are better, but in provinces women are still afraid to work or study. Women can't appear in the media, work or study outside the home.

Q: How do you want to see yourself 10 years from now?
A: I want to be a successful and respected journalist -- to do my job, with freedom, without being threatened or harassed.

Q: What is your biggest fear today?
A: People standing in the way of me doing my work. Those who want to stop me from being a journalist. ... I blame cultural and social barriers that don't see women as equal to men. Even Islam says men and women are equal. But many still don't want to believe that. These are the same people who think it is inappropriate for women to even appear in public. I also blame government officials for not doing enough to ensure laws are balanced and fair for women.

Q: What do you do on your day off?
A: I live with my family, so I try to spend time with them. I help my mother and sisters. Sometimes, I bring my work home, writing my reports. My family gets upset. They want me to help with things around house more, instead of on my work.

Q: Do you think you yourself face greater dangers than international journalists who come to Afghanistan to report?
A: I think all journalists who are here to report the truth face danger.

Q: What do you want the world to know about you?
A: I want them to know that despite the obstacles before me, I will continue to work hard and be the best journalist I can be. I'm doing this for the children of Afghanistan because they are the future of this country.

Mina Habib writes for the daily Chiragh newspaper and the Institute for War & Peace Reporting. She received her journalism degree at Kabul University.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The legal system in Kabul as of November, 2010

15 years’ jail for fleeing from a cruel husband

Prisoners in Kabul women prison

Exclusive: Inside the Kabul jail where a battered wife serves a longer term than a suicide bomber.

This woman (above left) was a failed suicide bomber, sentenced to 4 years. Shahperai (above right) a 22-year-old woman sentenced to 15-years for fleeing from a cruel husband.

By Oliver Englehart

NOVEMBER 16, 2010

At the Badam Bagh women's prison in Kabul, home to 150 female inmates and 70 of their children, the chief warden, Lt Col Zarafshan, lowers her voice. "Because of my pain, my hurt and my sense of injustice, I am telling you this," she says. "If we had a good justice system only about ten of these women would be in prison."

Although I see an occasional rat scuttling across the floor, and there is a somewhat putrid smell in the air, the conditions at Badam Bagh - it means 'The Almond Orchard' - are not as bad as I had expected. What is harrowing is the parody of justice. 

Afghan women can still be imprisoned for "moral crimes". These include running away from home, defying family wishes regarding the choice of a spouse, adultery and elopement.

A recent UN report stated that at least half of women imprisoned in Afghanistan are there for moral crimes. Zarafshan puts the proportion a lot higher.

She summons into her office Gul-Khanum, a 44-year-old woman from a rural district. She has two ink spots on her forehead and chin: ­ traditional markings tattooed on the most beautiful young girls. But now she has knife scars running down her neck, arms and face. Her thumb has been crudely sewn back on where a bullet went through her hand.

Gul-Khanum's husband accused her of [cheating on] him with her own cousin. The husband shot dead the cousin then went about maiming his wife before the police arrived at the scene.

I ask if her husband's accusations were true. "How could I do something like that? My cousin was like my son," she replies through tears. Gul-Khanum has been in prison for three months with no charge brought against her. Her husband is in prison elsewhere.

The US Department of State's 2009 Human Rights Report for Afghanistan says that police and prosecutors detain suspects for an average of nine months without charge.

The report also explains that detention of women is often at the request of other family members, with the criminal act of 'Zina' - strictly, fornication or adultery - used to justify a broad spectrum of social offences.

There are a number of women incarcerated for reporting crimes against them. Others are detained as "proxies" for their husbands or male relatives.

"What is he doing here?" asks one of the inmates (top left), looking up at me with kohl-lined eyes as Zarafshan shows me round the cells. "He's come to increase your sentence!" jokes the warden.

This woman was a failed suicide bomber. She was discovered at a police checkpoint wearing an explosive vest.

"The big question for me," says Zarafshan, "is why someone doing a suicide attack gets three years and a woman who is plainly innocent and hasn't killed anyone can be sentenced to 20 years?"

There is an explanation. The warden tells me the suicide bomber belonged to a criminal gang who had paid a bribe to have her sentence commuted to three years. "Money decides trials and imprisonment," said Zarafshan, "There is no justice here, only money."

The warden has invited me to meet Shahperai (top right). She is a delicate and softly spoken 22-year-old, in the ninth month of a 15-year sentence.

Aged 12, she was married off to a 39-year-old man. She has four children already. "My husband was one of our neighbours on our street. I used to call him Uncle," Shahperai explains. "I didn't know that one day he would come and take me to marry him."

She tells me her husband was a drug addict who systematically abused her, verbally and physically. Eventually she ran away with another man with whom she remarried and conceived another child. She was arrested after her first husband tracked her down in Kabul. Her new child was born behind bars in Badam Bagh.

"I regret my crime a lot. I know now what I did was wrong," Shahperai tells me. "But from the moment I was born into this world, I have not had one good day. Not one piece of luck."

Human Rights Watch report that nearly 90 per cent of women in Afghanistan complain of domestic abuse, while 70 per cent of marriages are arranged and, according to the US Department of State, 60 per cent of brides are still under the age of 16.

"My life is destroyed now," said Shahperai. "When they announced in court that I have 15 years I was happy, because I have nowhere to go. At least I am safe here."

Behind the razor-wired walls of Badam Bagh, she spends her days weaving jackets and socks to be sold on the outside in order to support her newborn child.

"My dream would be to have a beautiful and peaceful life outside of prison," she says, "but this is not possible now."

Read more:,news-comment,news-politics,15-years-jail-for-fleeing-from-a-cruel-husband#ixzz1OtqwI41N

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Saudi women take to their cars hoping for change

Driving is something I definately take for granted, i've been driving since I was 16 and couldn't imagine NOT being able to drive.  It would be nice to see at least a few women driving because they are perfectly capable.  What do you think?

Saudi women take to their cars hoping for change
 Thu, Jun 9 2011
Najla Hariri
By Asma Alsharif and Jason Benham
JEDDAH/RIYADH (Reuters) - Fed up with having no driver to ferry her to hospital, Shaima Osama decided to take matters into her own hands and drive there herself, an act of defiance in a country where women are banned from sitting behind the wheel.

Emboldened by the winds of change sweeping the Arab world, which has toppled leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, women in the conservative kingdom see no better time to seek greater freedoms by demanding the right to drive, something they would not have dreamed of doing a year ago.

"I learned that there is no law banning women driving. I took the keys, took a deep breath and started the car," Osama described how she drove in Jeddah last month.

Saudi Arabia has no written ban on women driving but Saudi law requires citizens to use a locally issued license while in the country. Such licenses are not issued to women, making it effectively illegal for them to drive.

Thousands of Saudi men and women joined Facebook groups calling for women's right to drive and challenge the ban. But only a few, like Osama, turned those calls into action.

Osama, 33, who has a severe vitamin D deficiency, drove herself to the hospital, received her vitamin injection but was stopped and arrested by police on her way home. She was released just hours later.

She took to the wheel just days before Saudi authorities arrested another woman, Manal Alsharif, who posted a YouTube video of herself driving in the kingdom's Eastern Province and calling on other women to do the same.

Alsharif has been released but faces charges of "besmirching the kingdom's reputation abroad and stirring up public opinion."

Like Alsharif, Osama learned to drive in the United States.

"The issue of women not being allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia has been in the public domain for more than 35 years," said Khaled al-Dakhil, a Saudi politics professor.

"This is not the first time women had driven cars but you could say that the revolutionary wave has added to momentum and added a new context."

Women also drove cars in 1990, but the government cracked down, arresting and firing from their jobs, an indication of what the authorities may do if more women follow in Osama and Alsharif's footsteps.

The issue has also been raised by King Abdullah, who in an interview in 2005 said it was only a matter of time before women drive in the kingdom but that people have to be ready for it.

Some women already drive in rural areas in the kingdom.


The two women and Facebook book groups are provoking a backlash from conservatives who oppose the idea of women seeking greater freedoms in a country where they must have written approval from a designated male guardian -- a father, husband, brother, or son -- to work, travel abroad and even undergo certain forms of surgery.

Conservatives have launched their own Facebook campaign calling on people to beat up any woman who tries to drive in the street. It has attracted more than 500 supporters.

Some 1,000 women have submitted a petition to King Abdullah supporting the ban against women driving, local media reported.

Saudi Sheikh Abdul Mohsen al-Obaikan, an adviser to the Royal Court, voiced his opposition while clerics have said that women driving would result in them being harassed in the street.

But the reasons appear to have more to do with religion.

"The religious establishment are trying to wrap the issue in the "sharia cloth" but they know that if women are allowed to drive it is a big change and a change in a direction they hate," Dakhil said. "The religious establishment are scared that society is changing faster that it should and that the revolutionary wave is driving this."

Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally, has not seen the protests that have rocked much of the Arab world and Abdullah ordered handouts exceeding $100 billion earlier this year to discourage dissent.

"It was a good time for the regime to give concessions but they did not," said Mohammad al-Qahtani, head of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association.

"They can either allow women to drive or there will be more public resentment and there could be public protests in the street if this continues."

But allowing women to drive would also ease the financial burden on households and on the kingdom and would help reduce the kingdom's dependence on millions of foreigners who work as drivers.

Many families in Saudi Arabia have at least one driver with an average salary of around 2,000 Saudi riyals ($533) per month. Those who cannot afford this have a male member of family to drive them, often making it a time-consuming burden.

"I do agree with women driving. It would ease costs but there need to be some rules," said student Talal al-Hussain.

"Women shouldn't drive from 18 years of age like we do, but from their early thirties when they can look after themselves better," he said.

Whether protesting in the street or not, Alsharif has launched a campaign to challenge the ban aimed at teaching women to drive and encouraging them to start driving from June 17, using foreign-issued licenses.

Some women activists say the government's tough stance on Alsharif will deter many women from acting that day.

"What I project to happen is that these terrorizing tactics will minimize the bold activists to a manageable number so that the government is capable of dismantling any and all protests in the first 15 minutes," said female activist Lama Sadik.

Mohammad al-Zulfa, a former member of the advisory shuran council said he hoped the government would react "wisely" and make an announcement allowing women to drive.

"Maybe not now, but in one or two years time, allowing society to be ready for it," he said.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Afghanistan in the 60's and 70's... with or without burqas?

Here are some pictures of Afghanistan in the 60's and 70's.  I'm focusing mostly on women as you can see because what women wear in Afghanistan is a topic that really matters.

*disclaimer - these pictures do not represent the whole country.  Most of them were taken in large cities, and were not taken by me.*

This picture is interesting because you can see 4 distinct styles of clothing.  From a burqa, to a skirt and sweater. 

A classroom with women and men in it.  Stylish women too, and head coverings optional. 

This picture actually really touched me.  A school arts & crafts show!  Notice there is painting, calligraphy, sewing, embroidery, etc....    This young student, whoever she is, was in school and encouraged to not only learn but to create something beautiful for others to enjoy.  I used to enjoy participating in the exact same types of shows when I was that age. 

Students walking.

School girls in their uniforms.

Another Street Scene

Street market next to a modern building - taken in the 70's 

Now this is an interesting picture - these are some stylish looking people!  I believe this was some sort of event for one of Kabul's radio stations. (70's)

Students in 1980.

Some sort of park or university campus.

 Nice swanky tourist hotel.

The city skyline of downtown Kabul - I think it looks pretty.

I believe this is the Afghan version of Girl Scouts.

And finally, a burqa. I mean..... a woman wearing a burqa. Sorry, but when you look at that outfit you don't think "a woman" you just think "a burqa". I guess that's the point of burqas in the first place! 

To see more of Afghanistan in the 60's and 70's click here.

To see Kabul in the 80's click here.

For information about Afghanistan's Mineral Resources (and precious gems) click here.  You can buy jewelry made in & from Afghanistan!

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Once upon a time in Afghanistan - before the wars.

I would like to share with you something that has interested me for a while now.  A country that used to be so 'normal', is now so (partially) backwards, shattered, and destitute. 

First watch this video:  Kabul - once upon a time

Did you notice the scenes of people going about their daily lives, school, shopping, and normalcy? 

Now watch this video:  News Channel special on Afghanistan

I realize that this is just a slice of life, and does not encompass the whole country.  But still, see how normal everything is?   Even out in the rural areas, there was relative peace and regular living.

The last video I would like to show you is footage of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan before the wars, then after the fall of the Taliban, and then today.  Today is not all peaches and cream though.  Yes, there are some high rises and development in the capital but the majority of the country is destitute and suffering.   Here it is:  Kabul - before and after

The history of Afghanistan is so complicated, most people don't know a lot about it other than what they hear from the media and images of burkas and taliban.  Here's a version i've heard that describes the recent history in a nutshell:

Up until the late 1970's Afghanistan was (relatively speaking) a thriving country with universities, tourism, a strong military, and some decent steps towards letting women take place in all spheres of life (politics, school, jobs, etc...)  Then the Soviets invaded in 1979.  All of the rich people, educated people, and people with connections fled as refugees into Pakistan.  Millions of others were killed, and the US-backed Mujahideen fought the Soviets until they withdrew in 1989.   Afghanistan then fell into a civil war between the Mujahideen and the Soviet-backed Party until 1996 when the Taliban took control of the country.  During the civil war(1989-1996), and during the Taliban rule(1996-2001), millions of others fled as refugees all over the world, and millions more were killed.  Also during this time there was no 'real' government, laws, etc....   

So!  Afghanistan was in a constant state of war and/or non-government from 1979 until 2001.  All that was left after the fall of the Taliban in 2001 was shattered buildings, women in burkas with no chance for education and public life for 22 years, no schools, no government, no infastructure, no laws, hardly any trees. 

I enjoyed reading some stories about the day after the fall of the Taliban.  Some men immediately shaved their beards (beards were mandatory under Taliban rule), people flew kites (not allowed by the Taliban), photographs came out, old cassette players came out and music was heard for the first time in more than 10 years, etc, etc, etc....    

So, that's the recent history of Afghanistan in a nutshell.  I KNOW I skipped a lot of details, so please understand.   Thank you!

By the way, i'm still in the process of researching/investigating women's prisons in Afghanistan.  I'll post more info soon - there is actually not a lot of academic/legal information out there.  It is mostly news/journalism.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Is it fair? Is it right? Afghan women in prison - part one.

Imagine not being able to leave prison unless your husband or male relative will get you out.  Now imagine if your husband & male relatives put you in prison!  How will you get out?  This is what happened to a woman named Maida Khal who is currently 22 years old.  The picture isn't a very attractive one, but I think it is realistic.  (In the picture she is reacting to another female prisoner being released)   She is currently in the Mazar-e-sharif prison.

According to the National Geographic blurb about her, she was married off to a 70 year old paralyzed man when she was 12 years old.  UGH!  She couldn't carry him around because she was so young, so the old man's brothers would beat her.  She asked for a divorce when she was 18 and was put in prison.  I guess for the past four years she has just been..... sitting prison...... waiting for what?

"I am in jail because I don't have a male guardian.  I can't get a divorce and I can't leave prison without a man.  I have had a difficult life."  she says. 

How will she get out?  From what I can tell, she will NEVER get out of prison because the only people who can get her out are the people who put her there in the first place.  I don't know much about how prisons are in Afghanistan but i'm going to try to find out some info to share, just so we can see what Maida does all day.