Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, August 7th, 2020

Afghan Women Made Strides with Great Suffering


Afghan Women Made Strides  with Great Suffering

A number of significant political positions are filled by women. Adela Raz is Afghanistan’s top diplomat abroad – the country’s first female permanent representative to the United Nations. Roya Rahmani is the first female ambassador to the United States.
The percentage of women lawmakers in Afghanistan is higher than the United States.
Afghan women have made strides on the long road with the establishment of the democratic administration. But the gains are made with great suffering. There is a film recorded few years ago, which rightly reflects the hardships of Afghan women. In this film, the Taliban are ruling Afghanistan. Their regime is especially repressive for women, who are not allowed to work. This situation becomes difficult for one family consisting solely of three women, representing three successive generations: a young girl, her mother and her grandmother. With the mother’s husband and uncle dead, having been killed in battle during the Soviet invasion and their civil wars, there are no men left to support the family. The mother had been working as a nurse in a hospital, but the Taliban cut off funding to the hospital, leaving it completely dysfunctional with no medicines and very little equipment. One foreign woman working as a nurse in the hospital is arrested by the Taliban. The mother does some nursing outside the hospital and receives payment from the caretaker of a patient, but after the patient dies the mother cannot find any more work.
The mother and grandmother then make what they feel is the only decision they can to survive: they will have their preteen daughter disguise herself as a boy so that she can get a job to support the family. Her grandmother tells a fiction to Osama, the preteen girl, about a boy who changed to a girl when he went under a rainbow – an old fiction among Afghans – in order to help persuade her to accept the plan. The daughter agrees despite being afraid that the Taliban will kill her if they discover her disguise. Partly as a symbolic measure, the daughter plants a lock of her now cut hair in a flowerpot. The only people outside the family who know of the ruse are the milk vendor who employs the daughter - he who was a friend of her deceased father - and a local boy named Espandi, who recognizes her despite her outward change in appearance. Espandi is the one who renames her Osama.
The disguise becomes more difficult when the Taliban recruit all the local boys for school, which includes military training. At the training school, they are taught how to fight and conduct ablutions. Osama attempts to avoid joining the ablution session, and the master grows suspicious of Osama’s gender. Osama realizes it can only be so long before she is found out. Several of the boys begin to pick on her, and although Espandi is at first able to protect her, her secret is eventually discovered.
The preteen girl is arrested and put on trial, along with a Western journalist, and the foreign woman who was arrested in the hospital. The journalist and the nurse are both condemned and put to death. However, as Osama is destitute and helpless, her life is spared. She is instead given in marriage to a much older man – a Taliban’s leader. Osama’s new husband already has three wives, all of whom detest him and say he has ruined their lives. They take pity on Osama, but are unable to help her. The husband shows Osama the padlocks he uses on his wives’ rooms, reserving the largest for Osama.
This film rightly displays the dolorous story of Afghan women. They suffered not only under the Taliban, but also under the current traditions. The violation of women’s rights such as sexual discriminations, physical tortures, honor killings, forced marriages, etc. are rampant in our society. In short, women are the historical pariah, born to suffer and then burnt or buried without deserving a gravestone to protect her identity.
With this in mind, the achievements were made after suffering harshly under the Taliban regime. Now Afghan women are worried that their achievements will be compromised at the peace table.

Hujjatullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan and freelance writer based in Kabul. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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