Bamiyan: Carlotta Gall of New York Times has reported about a “quiet revolution” in Bamiyan. Here are the snippets of the report.
“Far away from the Taliban insurgency, in this most peaceful corner of Afghanistan, a quiet revolution is gaining pace. Women are driving cars — a rarity in Afghanistan — working in public offices and police stations, and sitting on local councils. There is even a female governor, the first and only one in Afghanistan. In many ways this province, Bamian, is unique. A half-dozen years of relative peace in this part of the country since the fall of the Taliban and a lessening of lawlessness and disorder have allowed women to push the boundaries here. Most of the people in Bamian are ethnic Hazaras, Shiite Muslims who are in any case more open than most Afghans to the idea of women working outside the home.”
“Fear of armed militiamen left women afraid even to walk in front of the police station in the town of Bamian, recalled Nahida Rezai, 25, the first woman to join the police force here. “And I came right into the police station,” she said, admitting to some fears. At the beginning, she had some problems. “I received some threats by telephone,” she said. “But now I am working as a police officer, I think nothing can deter me.” Nekbakht, 20, joined the police force, too, and now helps her father, a casual laborer, support the family. They live in a single room tucked into the cliff face of Bamian valley, where homeless refugees have found shelter in caves inhabited centuries ago by Buddhist pilgrims.“It was very difficult to find a job,” she said. “We had economic problems, and with the high prices life was difficult. Finally, I decided if I could not find another job, I should go into the police.” After joining nine months ago, she likes the job so much she says she is encouraging other women to join, too. Indeed, growing economic hardship has helped drive some women to join the work force or to take other bold steps as they try to help their families cope with a severe drought, rising food prices and unemployment.”
“That was the case for Zeinab Husseini, 19. Her father, with seven daughters and no sons, says he had little choice when he needed a second driver to help at home. “I like driving,” she said, seated at the wheel of her family’s minibus. “I was interested from childhood to learn to drive and to buy a car. I was the first woman in Bamian to drive.” But over all, it is the return to relative peace here that has allowed for women’s progress, said the governor, Habiba Sarabi, a doctor and educator who ran underground literacy classes during the Taliban regime. “If the general situation improves, it can improve the situation for women,” she said. She pushed to have policewomen so they could handle women’s cases, and there are now 14 women on the force, she said.
In Bamian Province, Mrs. Sarabi, 52, has been the driving force behind women’s progress in public life. Some opponents are still agitating for her removal, Mrs. Sarabi said. “It is not only because they are against women,” she said, “but they do not want to lose power, so they make trouble for the governor.”
“She mentioned her problems to Laura Bush, the first lady, who visited Bamian in June to show support for education and women’s projects in Afghanistan.”
“The people of Bamian say they accepted a woman as governor in the hope that an English-speaking, development-oriented technocrat like Mrs. Sarabi would deliver jobs and prosperity. In fact, the success of women’s Community Development Councils here has caught the attention of the World Bank, which has been a major donor to the programs and is looking to develop them further. The quiet work being done by women on the councils and in other jobs has helped turn things around for many in Bamian.”
“Najiba, 48, is a woman in Yakowlang District who lost her husband in the notorious massacre by Taliban forces there in the winter of 2000-1. The Taliban fighters came on horseback, forcing the villagers and townspeople to flee in the night, leaving everything behind. Their shops and homes were set on fire while they sought refuge in the mountains. After the American intervention in Afghanistan and the fall of the Taliban in late 2001, they returned home to nothing, not even a roof over their heads. “I just had one skirt, and I was always patching it,” Najiba said.”