Recurring images of Afghan women

August 11, 2009

Sometimes we Afghan photographers joke that an Afghanistan without burqas, would mean no more good images.
I was with Yannis Behrakis when he shot his version (top). It was the day after the Northern Alliance took over Kabul and the Taliban fled the city. Yannis wanted to shoot some images which could show a change after the fall of the Taliban. We came across a number of women who were waiting to receive some alms from a rich local businessman. Yannis stopped to take some pictures.

For my version (below), I went to cover President Hamid Karzai’s election rally in the south of the country on August 4. There were thousands of men but some females who were mostly covered in burqas, as usual. I wanted to show the women’s participation in this mainly male-run country.

One could draw the conclusion that years after the fall of the Taliban, women are still under burqas and pictures look the same. This is because the situation of women may have changed in the cities but not across the country. The reason is not that international communities failed to help women liberate but it is because that is how they live. The life style in most parts of Afghanistan is a unique one, it is an Afghan one. It is clear from the start that men work outside and women work inside the house, that is how centuries past by. This is how they choose to live, one can not just take their burqas off, put them in jeans or short skirts, tell them to go out and work and then say your situation has improved. With all due respect to the Western media, they are painting the wrong picture on the situation of women here. Let’s leave the Taliban era out of this, this is now eight years of “Operation Enduring Freedom”.

You still see the same picture. The Afghan women and burqas make a damn good picture so they make a good story too, it is colorful. It is hard for me to believe a story written by a journalist who come for a short visit to Afghanistan and made reports about women or anything in Afghanistan. It takes time, knowledge and above all understanding of the Afghan way of doing things. This may be wrong according to the outside world but right according to Afghans.


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Yes i remember well that day Ahmad, i also remember people flying kites and queuing to have a shave at local barbershops. I think it was a great day for Kabul and Afghanistan.

Posted by Yannis Behrakis | Report as abusive

nice pic and moment…. speakless

Posted by | Report as abusive

As a westerner what I see in these pictures is a group of head to toe clad forms that are treated and accepted as sub humans. All humans were born unclad hence they should not be coerced or forced into hiding their faces behind a burqa and mesh material that is dictated by uneducated and ruthless male chien.

Posted by Exactitude | Report as abusive

Dear Journalist,
your photos and coverages are excellent.
Openly saying,many educated,young,urban women wants to join in open streams.
Because of fundamentalists,religious heads,and from traditional family members,many Muslim women are not able to express their inner thoughts by way of modern dresses,social gathering,and for more job openings.
Always majority of us will have two types of settings.
1.For our individuality,
2.For Outside world.
please choose which holds here.

Posted by krishnamurthi ramachandran | Report as abusive

a wonderful and very true story of Afghanistan.the image is also very powerful.
i think this is the reality in Afghanistan and we should respect it without bias by the western media.
Thank you Ahmad Masood.

Posted by jashim salam | Report as abusive out-or-starveits-the-law/

These women have it really rough, i really have pitty for them!!!

Posted by kristen | Report as abusive

Photos, beautiful. Insight, priceless. Your blog taught me a lot. Thank you very much.

Posted by Vicki Tait | Report as abusive

the pictures are amazing…its haunting to see people live like this.. :(

Posted by radhika | Report as abusive

Masood, your respect of all people, regardless of sex, creed or colour shines through your pictures even at the darkest moments in Afghanistan’s troubled times.

Posted by Russell | Report as abusive

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