AFGHANISTAN…then and now

Back in the latter half of the 20th Century, women in Afghanistan didn’t look much different than women in the West. When the Taliban took over in the 1990’s, women lost all of their freedoms and rights. Things improved after the Taliban were deposed by Coalition forces in 2002, but after the U.S, pulls out, it likely will be a lot worse for women again.

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THEN
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UK Daily Mail  Women in Afghanistan were brutally repressed under Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001 – but a series of fascinating old photographs show how women there used to live freely.

The Taliban were condemned around the world for their treatment of women. 

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Under their rule they were forbidden to be educated, publicly beaten for showing disobedience and forced to wear burqas – a garment that covers the whole body, apart from the eyes.

Mohammad Humayon Qayoumi, who was born in Kabul in Afghanistan, and went on to become an engineering professor at San Jose State University, wrote a photo-essay book called Once Upon A Time in Afghanistan that documented how life before the Taliban used to be very different for women.

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THEN using public transportation
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NOW using women’s limo

His photographs from the 1950s, 60s and 70s show how they used to be afforded university-level education, browse record shops in short skirts and study science.

Indeed a State Department report from the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor from 2001 explains how women were given the vote in the 1920s, were granted equality in the Afghan constitution in the 1960s and by the early 1990s formed 70 per cent of school teachers, 50 per cent of government workers and in Kabul, 40 per cent of doctors.

THEN at the cinema
THEN at the cinema
NOW at the stoning
NOW at the stoning

Mr Qayoumi said: ‘Remembering Afghanistan’s hopeful past only makes its present misery seem more tragic. But it is important to know that disorder, terrorism, and violence against schools that educate girls are not inevitable. I want to show Afghanistan’s youth of today how their parents and grandparents really lived.’

Afghanistan’s president Hamid Karzai recently endorsed a code of conduct that would prohibit many of the scenes shown in these photographs.

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THEN women and children at the local playground
NOW women and children sleeping in the street

It states that women are not allowed to travel without a male guardian and must not mingle with strange men in public places such as schools, markets and offices.

Wife-beating is only prohibited if there is no ‘Shariah-compliant reason’, it said. Mr Karzai insisted the document was in keeping with Islam and did not restrict women. ‘It is the Shariah law of all Muslims and all Afghans,’ he said.

THEN in nursing school
THEN in nursing school
NOW in the hospital after an acid attack
NOW being nursed after an acid attack
THEN men and women out for a walk
THEN men and women at the university
NOW child bride abused by her husband
NOW child bride with abusive husband
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THEN stylishly dressed women
NOW everyone looks the same
NOW everyone looks the same
THEN Girl Scounts
THEN Girl Scouts
NOW girl slaves
NOW girl slaves
THEN enjoying the park
THEN enjoying the park
NOW begging in the street
NOW begging in the street
THEN working as nurses
THEN working as nurses
NOW victim of acid attack
NOW working to survive acid attacks
THEN working in a laboratory
THEN working in a laboratory
NOW waiting to be shot
NOW waiting to be shot