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Women in Afghanistan
More freedom doesn't mean more equality
By Fariba Nawa


A woman teaches English.
(Photo: Massoud Hosseiny)
Farzana Wahedi was 14 years old when a stranger hit her for not covering her face. In Afghanistan under the Taliban, it was a crime for a woman to bare any part of her body except her hands.

Now, six years later, Wahedi is a successful news photographer. The Taliban has been replaced by a government that allows women their basic freedoms. Wahedi no longer wears a burqa, a flowing garment with only little holes to see through. Yet even with all the changes, she and many other women like her say they are in danger and treated unfairly in Afghanistan.

"We still don't feel safe, of course," says Wahedi.

Safia Melad, a 28-year-old journalist for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, says that life for Afghan women is much harder than it is for American women.



Women wearing burqas walk with children.
(Photo: Massoud Hosseiny)
"We have to be aware of how we dress, who we talk to, where we go, what we do all the time so that people don't ruin our family reputation and honor," says Melad. "I don't think I will ever be treated as an equal here."

She likes being a journalist and has appeared on television as an announcer, but some Afghans believe a woman should not be so free. Some neighbors have insulted her for her choice of lifestyle.

But Melad thanks God that the Taliban is gone. Taliban officials had arrested her husband for seven months and kept her inside the house for six years. She used that time to raise her two children, but she also became depressed and anxious.

Her coworker, Lailuma Sadid, also raised her little girl, Oranoos, during the Taliban period. Sadid, 25, was in her first year of journalism school in college when the Taliban took power. She had to drop out and stay home. Under the Taliban, women were forbidden to attend school, work with men, or even walk around with men who weren't related to them.

"I felt as a woman I had no power or life of my own. They controlled us," Sadid says.

But after the Taliban was overthrown, she went back to college and got her degree. She has been working as a journalist covering politics and interviewing diplomats and ministers. She says her entire life got better after the Taliban. "I have almost every freedom I could want right now."