FRONTLINE/WORLD . flashPOINT . Afghanistan: A Cry for Help . PBS

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Austin, TX

Stephanie is a strong woman. Being able and willing to take the risks inherent in documenting women's rights, in a region that holds no value on women's lives, shows great courage and passion.

We who see these images, hear these stories, and find them moving, must remember to let that energy cause us to THINK deeply as well as feel deeply. Yes, these are images from an Islamic society. But there are other religions that imply that a woman's life is not as valuable as a man's.

Often, those interpretations are considered acceptable only by those at the extremes of their beliefs. When looking at these images we should be asking questions: How did this situation come to pass? What were the factors involved in creating it? Is it true that the situation applies to the majority of those who follow this faith, or is it due to an extreme interpretation? What other cultures could, conceiveably, follow practices like this? Why do they not?

The first steps to stopping these horrible practices are based on, first: AWARENESS, and second: EDUCATION; not just education of those perpetrating the acts, but of those who wish to bring an end to them. We are looking at the extremes that human nature can engender.

Michael Davidsson
Tulsa, OK

It is sad to see how girls are treated in Afghanistan. It is good that the US and the international community went into Afghanistan to change things. Change is going to take a long time. We cannot bail out and let these animals that call themselves Taliban take over again. We have to hang in there until they have a secure democracy.

Philadelphia, PA
As a public school teacher, I constantly remind my students of why we are blessed to live in this country. When I viewed the disturbing pictures of what some women in Afghanistan endure it brings to mind some of Thomas Paine's words "...a long habit of not thinking a thing WRONG, gives it a superficial appearance of being RIGHT..." Men in this culture need help and leadership in understanding and respecting the values of a woman. Their misconduct has been supported by their culture for so long that it has now become acceptable.

Seattle, WA

These are the practices of Afghani tribal culture, many of which contradict Islamic law.
For example, the man who gave his daughter away lost at a game of cards. Gambling is a sin in Islam. The tribal council that made the decision is... tribal. They don't correctly follow Shari'ah law.

The Americans most "outraged" by this seem to be the least sincere in their sympathy for Afghani women.

Certainly centuries of foreign occupation and invasion, most recently by the Soviet Union and the United States, hasn't exactly facilitated the development of civil society in that country.

I can't say this video will do much good in this country. It only confirms assumptions about Afghan 'barbarity'. Viewers will only get more smug, self-righteous, and racist.

Show it in the Muslim world, especially Arab countries. It will provoke outrage and more useful and productive responses, I think.

Ray Meem
Garden Grove

Hey guys let us see the statistics first! What is the percentage of such happenings? This kind of photo journalism is a distraction from the real issue of a war that has destroyed the West economically and morally but that is hardly mentioned in the media because it is Zionist controlled.

The country was invaded illegally and was quite peaceful before all this ...There are a couple of hundred countries but it is only the Western countries that lead in teens committing suicide.

Charleston, WV
It saddens me too see what others go through in war torn countries like Afghanistan. I'm just so happy that we have a new president that isn't so trigger happy and ready to go to war with countries that don't agree with him or his policy's. I just hope Obama can heal the wounds that we as a country have had over the past eight years. I really honestly believe that change is coming and not only for our country, but for the entire world.

Morgantown, WV
But I thought Islam was a religion of peace? I bet I know the Koran as well as most Muslims. Did you know Mohammad had a bride that was 6 years old? Did you know a woman is considered only one half of a person in Islam? Fortunately most Muslims do not practice their religion as spelled out in the Koran.

Afghan LORD
Kabul, Kabul

Disgusting yes, but so sad that we can't improve this situation. Why? Because the world community built up this corrupt government. Every one likes to look at our pictures (like these you have taken) at least as a reminder that Afghanistan exists and there are such people.

But later all of you forget and these stories repeat. you draw our future with your own interests. Karzai was brought back but he is from a corrupt smuggler family. Look at his story:

We are only in your pictures but we have you in our heart always. Always waiting for you to save us from this currupt government and from the dirty game that you started.

Sorry, I have pain as a young Afghan man who has lived his 25 years in war.I write a blog about about this at

Bushkill, Pa
It is a curse to be born female in certain Islamic countries. That the men there are so fearful of women that they have to make them look like walking faceless sacks, and treat them in the most barbaric manner,is very sad. All they accomplish is to look repulsive to the rest of the world.

Melissa C
Indianapolis, IN

This is sick. It makes me want to vomit. All of the little boys are being raised to think this is ok, right? This is all perfectly acceptable in this culture? It's awful.

Peter Gong
San Francisco, CA

Deeply distrubing and should be brought to the attention of all. While the Holy Quran does not condone such violence towards women or any one for that fact, it is a sad statement on how its interpretation has been twisted into a warped patriachial philosophy.

Talib Bakari
Neptune, New Jersey

These practices of domestic violence against women should not be construed as the way the religion of Islam treats women. The Holy Quran as well as the teachings and actions of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Unto Him) never promoted violence against women. In fact the Holy Quran teaches a husband to be kind and gentle toward the wife, and this was always demonstrated by how the Prophet (PBUH) treated his wives. Unfortunately what you have depicted is tribalistic practices and not the true teachings of the Holy Quran or the teachings and deeds of the Prophet (PBUH).

Stuart Stewart
Harvey, ILL

I'm shock by the pictures that human being that practice Islam would take a wife that is a child. That is not Islam faith, which respects human life. It is what we all should have in us. Please continue your work with passion for human rights.

Disgusting and very sad.

M Rose
Cincinnati, Ohio

Would Americans willingly sacrifice soldiers to help end legacies of fear and oppression such as outlined in this story? Should they? I am not sure.

Our war on terror was proposed to us, in its clearest arguments, as necessary for fear of further attacks (post 9/11).

Meet violence with greater violence? Aren't there other ways to change the world?

Stephanie Chapman
Seattle, WA

This story saddens me so much on many levels. I weep for the end of the girls childhoods, their desperation that leads them to burn themselves, and their poverty. I know that many cultures do not have loving marriages, but the era of the child bride has to end.

Aside from the pedophile type image it casts in my mind, I know that this is a dangerous situation for a young girl. Childbirth is difficult for anyone and I can't imagine it happening to a 12 year old girl in the middle of nowhere.
I hope nations around the world are helping Afghanistan to rebuild itself and to help it create equality between the sexes.

Hal Bertilson, Ph.D.
Superior, Wisconsin

I am impressed. I am hoping it will still be available on Wednesday and Thursday so that I may show it to my Psychology of Women 258 class and my Cross-Cultural Psychology 360 class. It illustrates and puts faces on a number of theories in both classes. This is a teaching opportunity.


We have so far to go to be the human race the civilization God intended.

Jackie Delaney

Many thanks to Stephanie for these exceptionally moving and disturbing images.
I suspect that these women would have fared better under the progressive government of Afghanistan which followed the downfall of the monarchy. Under this government women were given equal rights, including the right to education.

That was before the United States government created and funded opposition groups, such as the Taliban, to fight against and finally overthrow the government and people friendly system which they were building. The end of this bold experiment threw Afghanistan back to the dark ages. Backward, feudal, oppressive practices, such as child marriage, stoning of women, once again are widespread in Afghanistan.

I have seen the Pashtuns degrade their women for a long time. I wish they can start following the real teachings of Islam -- one of the main teachings of Prophet Mohammad was the emancipation of women. God help them.

san francisco, california

Phenomenal photographs. Deeply disturbing. You and your photographer are brave to bring this to the world's attention. The images of the women who set fire to themselves are almost unwatchable. I know it's not politically fashionable to say so, but it must be said that Afghan society, at least the tribes in this Herat area, are very backward. Their treatment of women is appalling. Like animals. Worse. It's so depressing that women are forced to live like this in the 21st century. One wishes that a modern, progressive Afghan government could rid the country of such misery. But it seems like the Kabul and the West have wasted an opportunity to reform Afghanistan after the Taliban were overthrown. And now the Taliban are resurgent. What a catastrophe, and these women bear the brunt of it. What can we do to help?