As a little girl, I remember my mother wearing miniskirts and taking us to the cinemas, for shopping in open markets since there were no malls back then. It was more than acceptable to wear what one felt like, without the threat of fundamentalists ruining your day. It was freedom.
My aunt went to university in Kabul in her young days, when Afghanistan was paradise for women 50 years back…
Seeing the way life has panned out for the proud Afghans, it would be impossible to imagine women of yesteryear in short dresses, moving about freely, and without any inhibition. There was no moral policing then, no taking of life because they didn’t follow a particular dress code.
Unlike today, when women dare not reveal even an inch of bare skin, Afghan women of the 70s possessed political, educational, and human rights.
Way before the invasions of US-led forces and the communist Soviet troops, and in later years by the infamous, oppressive Islamic Taliban, Afghanistan was ahead of its time, way ahead of western countries when it came to women’s right.
Consider this: Afghanistan offered voting rights to women a year before the US did. I don’t think there are countries, other than Afghanistan, that have experienced such extreme regression.
Throughout the changing political landscape of Afghanistan in the last fifty years, women’s rights have been exploited by different groups for political gain!
Recently, a top US commander in Afghanistan recommended that US President, Barack Obama, revise his plan and keep more than 1,000 US troops in the country beyond 2016. War, militarisation, and Taliban terrorism have taken away the essence of a woman in the country, leaving them cornered, tortured and dead inside.
Afghan women were protagonists in the fields of politics, education, fashion, and much more. This backsliding with time has made their situation worse than animals. There is a long list of ‘don’ts’ for them and even a slight detour is punished heavily. Up until the 1970s, Afghanistan had seen relatively steady progression.
However, with the rising of hardened Islamist groups, the laws for women became tougher and less accommodating. Women were banned from going to school, more and more women turned into home-makers because working women were looked down upon by Islamist forces. They were even banned from leaving the house without a male chaperone, banned from showing their skin in public, from healthcare facilities. In short, banned from anything and everything possible! I wonder why they didn’t ban women from breathing.
Brutalized and sidelined, Afghan women, especially the aged, reminisce the good old days and pray that those days return someday soon.