Saturday, August 3, 2013










"Do not trust my silence!", a short film directed by the Afghan filmaker Sahar Fetrat, won the first prize in Italy “Universocorto Elba Film Festival”, one of the most important short film festival held every year in Europe. Sahar Fetrat was awarded “for the extreme courage of reporting the Afghan women conditions in the streets of Kabul and for the technique of shooting with hidden camera. Do Not Trust My Silence tells about street harassment of women in the city of Kabul. Click here to watch the video.
"Do not trust my silence!", a short film directed by the Afghan filmaker Sahar Fetrat, won the first prize in Italy “Universocorto Elba Film Festival”, one of the most important short film festival held every year in Europe. Sahar Fetrat was awarded “for the extreme courage of reporting the Afghan women conditions in the streets of Kabul and for the technique of shooting with hidden camera. Do Not Trust My Silence tells about street harassment of women in the city of Kabul. Click here to watch the video.
Monday, July 29, 2013
Where did I learn about freedom?
By Noorjahan Akbar
Most of my work and writings have been focused on atrocities and injustices against women in Afghanistan, but in this blog, I wanted to address a different kind of injustice.
Recently an American journalist sent me the draft of her article about my work for editing. The middle paragraph argued that I was given a rare opportunity to get an education and attend a school in the United States of America and this experience of freedom ensured that I would never submit to injustice again. In this one sentence, I noticed many of the presumed notions about myself, my culture, and in contrast the American culture, that are reflected in much of the literature produced in this field.
Many writings about women’s rights activists from Afghanistan assume that we, Afghan women, learn about freedom and equality outside of our countries and cultures and in my case in particular, the assumption is that studying in the United States of America gave me a taste of freedom and caused me to speak up to injustice. It is assumed that I was necessarily oppressed and therefore merely a victim in Afghanistan and that if it was not for my time spent in the US, I would have not become an activist for women’s rights.
This presumed monopoly over universal values has many negative consequences. It contributes to a binary vision of the world that views half of the people on earth as “progressive” and “civilized” and the other half as devoid of these characteristics and values. In addition to that, this kind of literature contributes to the discourse used to delegitimize women’s rights activists as Westernized individuals in Afghanistan and countries with similar situations. The assumption that I, or other activists, learned about freedom in America then becomes a double-edged sword that is used to label us both in the West and at home. The idea that freedom or liberation is a solely American or Western concept and therefore we must all have learnt about freedom in America given our own cultures are only oppressive and there are no notions of liberation at home is absurd.
I did not learn about freedom in America.
I learned about freedom from my parents. When I was six, they decided that they didn’t want to submit to living under the Taliban and wanted the freedom of education for their daughters. They left behind all their livelihood, all they had gathered throughout their lives, to be free.
I learned about freedom from my aunt. She taught herself to read and write when she was over forty so that she could be more independent. She agreed for her daughter, her only child, to travel thousands of miles across the world to get an education and be free.
I learned about freedom from the women of my country who sing about freedom in dozens of different languages and dialects, who tell their daughters tales of freedom.
I learned about freedom from Afghan political prisoners, writers and journalists, who prefer being imprisoned to being silent and submitting to oppression.
I learned about freedom from an Afghan National Army soldier I met last year. His name is Nadeem and he puts his life on the line every day, not for the 150 USD that is his salary per month, but for the freedom of a country from the hands of radicalism.
I learned about freedom from the poetry of RabiaBalkhi, a princess who made the foundation of class stratification and sexual discrimination tremble by daring to love a slave, and was killed for demanding the freedom to love whomever she wishes.
I learned about freedom from Merman Parwin who broke free of oppressive traditions by becoming the first woman to sing on Afghan radio.
I learned about freedom from Batool Muradi, who was accused of adultery by her husband, which could lead to severe consequences, but decided not to remain silent.
No. I did not learn about freedom in America. The urge for freedom is not a Western one, and the concept of liberation is not a Western invention that I could have learned only in America. Freedom is in my blood, and in the blood of millions of women and men who have never been to the USA, but know that as humans, they deserve the right to breathe fresh air and say their opinions without the fear of prosecution. With many slave-owners as founding fathers, hundreds of years of slavery and segregation, colonialist and imperialistic politics and high incarceration rates of black and brown people, America could not have been my inspiration for freedom.

Where did I learn about freedom?

By Noorjahan Akbar

Most of my work and writings have been focused on atrocities and injustices against women in Afghanistan, but in this blog, I wanted to address a different kind of injustice.

Recently an American journalist sent me the draft of her article about my work for editing. The middle paragraph argued that I was given a rare opportunity to get an education and attend a school in the United States of America and this experience of freedom ensured that I would never submit to injustice again. In this one sentence, I noticed many of the presumed notions about myself, my culture, and in contrast the American culture, that are reflected in much of the literature produced in this field.

Many writings about women’s rights activists from Afghanistan assume that we, Afghan women, learn about freedom and equality outside of our countries and cultures and in my case in particular, the assumption is that studying in the United States of America gave me a taste of freedom and caused me to speak up to injustice. It is assumed that I was necessarily oppressed and therefore merely a victim in Afghanistan and that if it was not for my time spent in the US, I would have not become an activist for women’s rights.

This presumed monopoly over universal values has many negative consequences. It contributes to a binary vision of the world that views half of the people on earth as “progressive” and “civilized” and the other half as devoid of these characteristics and values. In addition to that, this kind of literature contributes to the discourse used to delegitimize women’s rights activists as Westernized individuals in Afghanistan and countries with similar situations. The assumption that I, or other activists, learned about freedom in America then becomes a double-edged sword that is used to label us both in the West and at home. The idea that freedom or liberation is a solely American or Western concept and therefore we must all have learnt about freedom in America given our own cultures are only oppressive and there are no notions of liberation at home is absurd.

I did not learn about freedom in America.

I learned about freedom from my parents. When I was six, they decided that they didn’t want to submit to living under the Taliban and wanted the freedom of education for their daughters. They left behind all their livelihood, all they had gathered throughout their lives, to be free.

I learned about freedom from my aunt. She taught herself to read and write when she was over forty so that she could be more independent. She agreed for her daughter, her only child, to travel thousands of miles across the world to get an education and be free.

I learned about freedom from the women of my country who sing about freedom in dozens of different languages and dialects, who tell their daughters tales of freedom.

I learned about freedom from Afghan political prisoners, writers and journalists, who prefer being imprisoned to being silent and submitting to oppression.

I learned about freedom from an Afghan National Army soldier I met last year. His name is Nadeem and he puts his life on the line every day, not for the 150 USD that is his salary per month, but for the freedom of a country from the hands of radicalism.

I learned about freedom from the poetry of RabiaBalkhi, a princess who made the foundation of class stratification and sexual discrimination tremble by daring to love a slave, and was killed for demanding the freedom to love whomever she wishes.

I learned about freedom from Merman Parwin who broke free of oppressive traditions by becoming the first woman to sing on Afghan radio.

I learned about freedom from Batool Muradi, who was accused of adultery by her husband, which could lead to severe consequences, but decided not to remain silent.

No. I did not learn about freedom in America. The urge for freedom is not a Western one, and the concept of liberation is not a Western invention that I could have learned only in America. Freedom is in my blood, and in the blood of millions of women and men who have never been to the USA, but know that as humans, they deserve the right to breathe fresh air and say their opinions without the fear of prosecution. With many slave-owners as founding fathers, hundreds of years of slavery and segregation, colonialist and imperialistic politics and high incarceration rates of black and brown people, America could not have been my inspiration for freedom.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013
"

My Dearest Father:

When I see a father who loves his daughter, when I see a brother struggle for his sister to earn a scholarship and study abroad, when I see a husband love his wife, I remember you. But when I see a father lock the door of the house to prevent his daughter from going to school, when I see a brother force his sister into marriage, when I see a husband kill his pregnant wife, I hate men. I really hate those Afghan men.

I remember when I wore my burqa and you didn’t like it so you bought flowers to put in my hair. I said that the burqa hides the flowers, but you said, “No matter. When you take the burqa off, you will smell the flowers.”

"
Thursday, June 13, 2013
Sunday, May 26, 2013
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Sunday, February 3, 2013
Thursday, January 31, 2013
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Women wash their cooking pots in a stream in the village of Foladi, Bamyan, Afghanistan on the 8th June, 2010.
Kate Holt Photojournalist

Women wash their cooking pots in a stream in the village of Foladi, Bamyan, Afghanistan on the 8th June, 2010.

Kate Holt Photojournalist
Friday, January 25, 2013
Friday, January 18, 2013

AFGHANS IN THEIR OWN WORDS

1. Najaf Waheedi, 32, Afghan Army

"I feel that I am inadequate, powerless and angry when US troops are around. They take control of everything and set their own rules which annoys me. They should start to negotiate more and treat us like colleagues. I do understand the risks they face but as they say ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans’. It’s the other way round in this case."

2. Abdul Ali, 51, salesman

"Americans have brought corruption to my city. They are pouring money like water into Afghanistan rather than investing it wisely - especially American aid workers. Aid money should be spent on funding Afghan schools and hospitals, not on Westerners’ five-star-hotel bills."

3. Zakia Hussain, 23, beautician

"My Afghan sisters were robbed of beauty during the harsh years of the Taliban regime. Teenage girls like me were suppressed and forced to wear burqas which made us look like blue ghosts, but now I’ve thrown off the burqa. I was trained at the Kabul Beauty School built and run by American aid workers. Now I have my own beauty salon and also train others so they can have a career like me. This all happened after Americans came to my country."

4. Habiba, 31, newscaster

"The US has made my life even harder. They have failed to fulfill their promises, and now they’ve appointed the new warlords the Northern Alliance who are worse than the Taliban. The current situation is almost as if Taliban were still running the country. Afghan woman have always faced security risks and I face danger every day but I’m not giving up on my job."

5. Ahmed Shah, 36, catering

"I got this job when Americans invaded Kabul in early 2002. My manager who I used to work with reopened his catering business, so in way it’s the Westerners who brought peace to the city and I got my job back. Now I work six days a week and the best part so far has been that I’ve learnt to cook some European dishes like pasta, pizza and burgers and some Indian food."

6. Moona Hussaini, 35, TV director and presenter

"It feels great that I can be of use in a field that’s been my dream since I was a young kid. The American media has been a huge inspiration to me.  On the other hand though, I have these questions that people need to re-think: how many troops are here; for how much longer; the cost; the exit strategy; and how the US will know when it’s time to get out of Afghanistan. There are no answers to these questions."

Saturday, January 12, 2013
Friday, January 11, 2013
Monday, January 7, 2013
 
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