09.10.2021

“The Other Afghan Women”

What can life be like for the women of the Afghan countryside, who have suffered through decades of civil war and foreign occupation? New Yorker contributor Anand Gopal embedded himself among the people in places rarely covered by Western media. The result is his in-depth article “The Other Afghan Women”. He joins the show to discuss.

Read Transcript EXPAND

WELL, YOU KNOW, WHEN WE THINK ABOUT THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN, WE TEND TO HAVE A VERY VAGUE IDEA OF IT, BUT IN FACT ON THE GROUND THE WAR IS ONLY FOUGHT IN PART OF THE COUNTRY AND THAT'S IN THE RURAL, SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN, AND SO I WAS REALLY CURIOUS TO SEE WHAT WAS LIFE LIKE FOR PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN LIVING, IN SOME CASES THROUGH FOUR DECADES OF CONFLICT.

SO I DECIDED TO TRAVEL THIS SUMMER TO INTERVIEW DOZENS OF WOMEN TO TRY TO FIND OUT.

I'M JUST CURIOUS, HOW DID YOU FIND THESE WOMEN AND WERE THEY OPEN TO SPEAKING WITH YOU?

I KNOW YOU SPENT A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF TIME WITH A WOMAN NAMED SHAKIRA, WHO SEEMS SURPRISED SHE SHARED HER NAME WITH ONE OF THE WORLD'S BIGGEST POP STARS.

MANY OF THESE WOMEN HAVE NOT MET FOREIGNERS.

SHAKIRA TOLD ME SHE HASN'T MET A FOREIGNER WHO WASN'T CARRYING A GUN.

SO THEIR ONLY EXPERIENCE WITH THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY IS THROUGH VIOLENCE, THE MILITARY.

SO IT WAS DIFFICULT FOR ME TO ACTUALLY MEET THEM AT FIRST.

I HAD TO GO THROUGH GRANDMOTHERS BECAUSE IN THESE VERY CONSERVATIVE, TRADITIONAL AREAS IT'S VERY UNUSUAL FOR MEN, UNRELATED MEN TO SPEAK WITH WOMEN, UNRELATED TO THE TALIBAN.

IT'S BEEN THIS WAY FOR A LONG TIME.

SO I FIRST MET WITH SOME GRANDMOTHERS AND THEY REFERRED ME TO OTHER PEOPLE AND EVERY SINGLE TIME I MET SOMEBODY, I ASK THEM, TELL ME YOUR LIFE STORY FROM THE BEGINNING.

WHEN THEY DID THAT, I WAS REALLY SHOCKED, EVEN AS SOMEBODY MYSELF WHO HAS BEEN COVERING THIS CONFLICT FOR A DECADE, I WAS SHOCKED BY THE LEVEL OF VIOLENCE THEY HAD SEEN.

WHETHER IT'S AIR STRIKES OR ROADSIDE BOMBS OR KIDNAPPINGS OR WHAT NOT.

YES, BECAUSE SO MUCH OF WAR, ESPECIALLY FOR THOSE THAT DON'T LIVE THROUGH IT, THE TOLD THROUGH THE LENS OF THE GOOD GUYS AND BAD GUYS.

ONE WOULD ASSUME OBVIOUSLY THAT THE GOOD GUYS WOULD BE THE AMERICANS AND ALLIES THAT COME IN AND SUPPORT THE AFGHAN ARMY AND IT'S NOT AS SIMPLE OF THAT.

THIS IS REALLY WHAT GETS TO THE CRUX OF YOUR PIECE HERE.

I WANT TO JUST READ ONE VERSE FROM IT.

YOU WRITE THE TALIBAN TAKEOVER HAS RESTORED ORDER TO THE CONSERVATIVE COUNTRYSIDE, WHILE PLUNGING THE LIBERAL STREETS OF KABUL INTO FEAR AND HOPELESSNESS.

THIS BRINGS TO LIGHT THE UNSPOKEN PREMISE OF THE PAST TWO DECADES.

IF U.S. TROOPS KEEP BATTLING THE TALIBAN IN THE COUNTRYSIDE, THEN LIFE IN THE CITIES COULD BLOSSOM.

THIS MAY HAVE BEEN A SUSTAINABLE PROJECT, BUT WAS IT JUST?

CAN THE RIGHTS OF ONE COMMUNITY DEPEND IN ON THE RIGHTS OF ANOTHER?

IS IT REALLY AS BINARY OF A CHOICE AS THIS?

DO THESE WOMEN FEEL THEIR LIVES ARE BEING SACRIFICED FOR THE LIVES AND FREEDOMS OF WOMEN IN LARGER CITIES?

YOU KNOW, EVERY SINGLE WOMAN I MET I ASKED THEM ABOUT WOMEN'S RIGHTS.

I SAID, YOU KNOW, THE UNITED STATES SAYS THAT ONE OF THE REASONS WHY THEY'VE INVADED AFGHANISTAN AND THEY SUPPORT THE AFGHAN GOVERNMENT IS TO BRING RIGHTS TO WOMEN

About This Episode EXPAND

Anand Gopal; Daniel Bogado; Spencer Ackerman; Sandra Cisernos

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