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Sahar Parniyan, forced to go into hiding symbolizes plight of Afghan women and neglect of the West

Robert Maier
Thursday 11 October 2012

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The case of Sahar Parniyan, the young Afghan actress who recently had to go into hiding in Kabul highlights the worsening situation for women in Afghanistan. Three of Sahar’s actress colleagues were assaulted and stabbed in a back alley while they were attempting to flee to a safer home a few weeks ago. One died. The others are in prison for suspected “immoral acts,” primarily because the lived in the same home, without men, and worked on a TV series that was critical of Karzai’s government. Women actresses across Afghanistan are being threatened with the same, including Sahar,one of Afghanistan’s leading actresses.

In the meantime, she is at risk from Taliban agents and she must remain in hiding with no financial support.
Sahar’s career as an actress is over. If she becomes a refugee, sent to a new culture where she knows no one, to learn a new language from scratch, and be lucky to find a job washing dishes or cleaning bathrooms for years until she receives an education.
With this role model, it is no wonder that women see little future for building lives in Afghanistan.
Selay Ghaffar, chief executive of the Kabul-based NGO Humanitarian Assistance for the Women and Children of Afghanistan, says many young women are leaving. "They see no future for themselves in Afghanistan so the bright ones are seeking scholarships or work abroad. We have had two schools for girls burned down near the capital in recent days, acid attacks on girls going to school, increasing stories of rape and of kidnap.
"Many NGOs who try to help women have been killed. Billions of dollars from international organisations have been poured into Afghanistan and ended up in the pockets of male politicians, while women are left to feel insecure in their own land. For those who cannot leave, it is sending them back into the home; many women are deciding to stop work.
"During the first few years after international troops entered the country a lot of things changed in Afghanistan," she said. "There was positive progress and change in the day-to-day lives of many Afghan women. Unfortunately, since 2007, things changed dramatically as insecurity has increased [and] discrimination against women at all levels has increased. Life has become more difficult for women but they are not willing to be pushed back into the box.
"Why should all the plans for the future of Afghanistan ignore half of its population?"
Perhaps the greatest gift the US could give Afghan women is 50,000 visas to the US, including free plane tickets on chartered 747s from Kabul to Kansas. Show up at the Kabul airport, and you’ve got a place. This might startle the Talibs and other Afghan fundamentalist thugs into realizing their grave errors.
Sadly, the U.S. has bungled billions of dollars on hi-tech weapons, military installations that will be turned over to Karzai’s cronies and other al Quaeda supporters and thousands of maimed American families. Re-settling 50,000 resourceful, hard-working Afghan women would have been a great alternative, and maybe brought Afghan men to their senses enough to apologize and beg for the return of their better halves.

Kabulpress English pages editor, writer, video producer and educator.

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