• Shah Marai/AFP/Getty

    How We Lied To Afghanistan’s Girls

    One reason given for the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan was to educate girls. But as the Western military shrinks there, so does the funding for those schools.

    KABUL, Afghanistan — The girls of Afghanistan have been betrayed. When Taliban rule ended almost 13 years ago, international donors rushed in to promise that young women would no longer be denied an education. Western governments spent a decade patting themselves on the back for what they touted as exceptional work supporting schools for the beleaguered girls of Afghanistan. They talked about bringing women out of purdah, literally as well as figuratively, so they could help their families and their country to prosper.

    But the closing of one school after another exposes the hollowness of those promises. In fact, the state of education in Afghanistan is still so shaky that only about half of Afghan girls manage to go to school, and those numbers are set to decline.

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    From ‘True Detective’ To ‘Fort Bliss’

    The actress sat down to discuss her award-worthy performance as an Army veteran and single mother in Fort Bliss and the difficulties of being a woman in Hollywood.

    There is, rather unfortunately, a preponderance of evidence that numerous Hollywood stars were generated in a farcical, fame-seeking incubator buried beneath Mount Lee. When you speak to them, they speak at you, regurgitating vacuous mini-monologues about, say, “the great script” or “the amazing time” they had making their latest pile of processed, gold-plated dung. Michelle Monaghan is, thankfully, not one of those people.

    Perhaps it’s her small-town Midwest upbringing, emerging from the cornfields of Winthrop, Iowa—population 850—or the knowledge imparted by her blue-collar parents (her mother ran a day care center out of the family home and her father was a factory worker), but Monaghan feels, well, real. And not in the J. Lo featuring Ja Rule sense. She also, as The New York Times’ Manohla Dargis recently put it, is “one of those performers you’re always happy to see” who “radiates intelligence.” For all these reasons and more, the 38-year-old actress has become one of the premier portrayers of working-class women onscreen. Take her first big role as Kimberly Woods, a “Teach For America” instructor in over her head on the Fox drama Boston Public; or as a miner opposite Charlize Theron in North Country; her Bahstin private investigator in search of a missing girl in Gone Baby Gone; the vodka-swilling long-haul truck driver in Trucker.

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    Terse Beauty

    The Secret Poems of Afghan Women

    A landay is a traditional two-line Afghan verse form subversively appropriated by Afghan women to express themselves in ways prohibited by their society.

    Eliza Griswold and Seamus Murphy have made a book that is necessary reading for anyone who has ever made assumptions from a distance about what a burka-wearing woman might be like, and for anyone who cannot fathom how poetry could get you killed. In other words, this book is a must-read for every U.S. citizen.

    I am the Beggar of the World is a book of poems, war reportage, and photographs. It presents and comments on a set of folk poems—“landays” (pronounced “LAND-ees”)—in translation from the Pashto, and it describes the current and historical contexts of these poems’ production, with a special emphasis on detailed anecdotes drawn from Griswold’s and Murphy’s encounters with their Afghani informants and subjects.

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    Shot In The Face By Her Husband

    Seventeen-year-old Shakila had been married to her cousin for seven months when he shot her in the face. Inside her miraculous recovery and her fight against returning to Afghanistan.

    Seventeen-year-old Shakila Zareen had been married for seven months to her first cousin when he shot her in the face, blowing out her teeth, nose, left eye, and the hearing in her left ear. With incredible luck—and an unlikely intervention from the upper echelons of Afghan governance—the young girl survived. Now, recovering in New Delhi as a guest of the Indian government, she faces a return to a country where her life is still in danger.

    Shakila grew up in Afghanistan’s fourth-largest city, Mazar-e Sharif, as one of six children in an impoverished family. When she was 17, she was pulled out of school, where she’d reached a seventh-grade level, and married to her 31-year-old cousin. It was a wedding arranged due to financial necessity. “I didn’t want it to happen, even though we were poor—I didn’t want her to go into that family,” her mother, 43-year-old Sherman Jan, says in Farsi through a translator. “There was no other way.” Her younger sister was removed from school as well, at the insistence of her new family.

  • Afshan 16, is a victim of domestic violence and self-immolation. (Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty)

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    Kabul Could Legalize Spouse Abuse

    A proposed law would ban relatives of accused child abusers, rapists and murderers from testifying against them in court—and women’s rights advocates are terrified that it spells a return to Taliban-era repression.

    Nelosar was 15 years old when she was married off to a man more than twice her age. When she told her father she did not want to marry and wanted to continue her education instead, he replied that he would kill her if she didn’t comply. She entered into the marriage, but was ruthlessly beaten by her in-laws and her husband. “I never loved him, but I had to stay,” Nelosar (not her real name) says.

    Just two months ago, with the support of her children, she applied for a divorce from the man she says abused her their entire marriage. Now 41 years old, Nelosar works as a caregiver for senior citizens and lives in Queens, New York. Her husband stopped beating her when they moved here because he feared the police, but the verbal attacks continued. She couldn’t divorce him in Afghanistan, but says she’s thrilled to live in the United States where the law is in her favor. “There should be law that supports women, not abuses them,” Nelosar says.

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    Law Change Silences Afghan Women

    Victims of domestic violence could be banned from testifying in court.

    A small but crucial change in Afghanistan law could silence victims of domestic violence. The amendment, which has passed parliament but awaits a signature from President Hamid Karzai, bans relatives of the accused from testifying against them in court. Almost all cases of domestic violence in Afghanistan happen within families. If this new amendment becomes law, none of these victims could take their crimes to court. "Honor killings" and grave acts of violence against woman—such as the case of Sitara, whose nose and lips were cut off by her husband—also would be impossible to prosecute. Opponents of violence against women are now pressuring Karzai to kill the amendment. "It is a travesty this is happening," Manizha Naderi, director of the charity and campaign group Women for Afghan Women told The Guardian. "The most vulnerable people won't get justice now."

  • Colonel Jamila Bayaaz talks on the phone at her office before an interview in Kabul January 15, 2014. An Afghan policewoman took charge of a district in the capital Kabul this week, such an unusual and dangerous appointment in a country where women have few rights that her bosses gave her four bodyguards. (Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

    As U.S. troops withdraw from Afghanistan, there are huge concerns about stability and civil rights. Perhaps one pioneering woman will facilitate progress and change.

  • Omar Sobhani/Reuters

    Breaking barriers

    Support Afghan's Female Soldiers

    Congress finally delivers for women in the Afghan national security forces.

    Fifty-three billion and change. That’s how much the U.S. has spent to build, train, equip, and sustain the Afghan National Security Forces. Still, this support hasn’t resulted in a military that is inclusive, representative, or capable of addressing the security needs of all Afghans—men and women alike.

    On Thursday, Congress took an unprecedented step to ensure women’s meaningful participation in the stability and democratization of their nation. In passing the 52nd National Defense Authorization Act, they authorized funds specifically for women in the Afghan forces, designating a minimum of $25 million to bolster their ranks. With women comprising only one percent of the Afghan National Police and 0.3 percent of the Afghan National Army, the consequences of not doing so would be dire.

  • Sitara, an Afghan woman whose husband cut her nose and lips when she refused to give him money for drugs, receiving medical treatment at a local hospital in Herat, Afghanistan, 13 December 2013. (JALIL REZAYEE)


    Afghan Man Slices Off Wife's Nose

    A 30-year-old mother of four has been flown to Turkey for emergency surgery after her husband sliced off her nose and lips in a vicious attack witnessed by their children.

    An Afghan woman has been flown to Turkey for emergency surgery after her husband sliced off her nose and lips apparently in punishment for refusing to sell her jewellery.

    Sitara, 30, was found lying unconscious in her home on Friday when neighbours in Herat province were alerted by the cries of her four children.

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    Helping Kabul's Girls Study Abroad

    An innovative program is quietly schooling and giving scholarships to Afghanistan's girls, hoping to cement the next generation's educational gains.

    Farahnaz Afaq’s father, Atiqullah, had one dream for his children: education. Born in Kabul, Afghanistan, he was the first in his family to attend school. After his father died and his mother and siblings fell into poverty, Atiqullah picked through dump sites for pencils and paper, which he would smooth out and use for notebooks, which his family could no longer afford. Atiqullah went to school only part-time as he had to take on whatever jobs he could to support his mother and siblings. But he did well academically, eventually attending Kabul University and graduating with a degree in pharmacy. Afaq’s mother, Marzia, had to stop her schooling completely after her own father died when she was a young girl. Marzia wed Atiqullah when she was only 13 because he promised her that she could go back to school. Marzia went on to graduate high school and attend a program to become a kindergarten teacher.

    Marzia and Atiqullah have six children, including four daughters. Life was as good as could be until Afaq was three. Both Marzia and Atiqullah held down steady jobs, earning good incomes, and their oldest children all went to school. Afaq’s teenaged sisters were, in fact, even preparing for university. That is, until 1996, when Marzia was no longer allowed to teach and Atiqullah’s pharmacy in Kabul was taken over by someone allied to the Taliban. The Islamic fundamentalist group had declared war and imposed extremely harsh social conditions on the people, and particularly on females. Afaq’s sisters had to abandon their educations completely. But there was Afaq, who hadn’t even started school, another sister, Farima, just a few years older, and a brother, who all faced illiteracy without a chance at schooling. Atiqullah and Marzia felt they had no choice. They boarded up their Kabul home and packed clothes and a few bags of food. They fled to Iran. “My parents had struggled so much for educations for all of us,” says Afaq. “Everything they struggled for, they felt disappearing between their fingers.”

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    Just months after her predecessor was killed.

    Afghanistan’s top female police officer in the country’s southern region has died after being shot on Sunday, just months after her predecessor was gunned down. Gunmen shot the officer, Lieutenant Negar, in the shoulder, while she was getting in her car to go to work. Negar was the sub-inspector in the criminal investigation department in Afghanistan’s Helmand region. She took the job over from Islam Bibi, who was shot and killed in July as she headed back to work. Just 1 percent of Afghanistan’s police force is female, and the women who have braved it have faced increasing threats.

  • Supporters of India's main opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) women's wing, scatter rose petals in front of a portrait of an Indian author Sushmita Banerjee, in Kolkata on September 7, 2013. (Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters)


    ‘We Killed Sushmita Banerjee’

    A renegade Taliban militia says they murdered the Indian author. By Sami Yousafzai and Ron Moreau.

    Around midnight late last week, half-a-dozen gunmen quietly scaled the 12-foot-high mud-brick wall surrounding the modest house and stealthily entered Janbaz Khan’s bedroom in eastern Afghanistan’s Paktika province. They put a gun to his head, blindfolded him, and bound both his hands behind his back. They warned him not to move. “We are staying on top of you so don’t make a sound or we’ll shoot,” Janbaz later recalled them saying. He obeyed. In the morning his brother, who had been sleeping in an adjoining room, found him and removed the blindfold and cuffs. Immediately both men realized what had happened. They rushed to the bedroom of Janbaz’s wife, Sushmita Banerjee, the Indian author and health care worker, and discovered what they had feared. She had vanished.

    At three a.m. that night, an elderly woman in a neighboring village tells The Daily Beast that she was awakened by the sustained crackle of gunfire.  She thought a family was celebrating the birth of a baby boy. But what she actually heard were the sounds of Banerjee’s brutal execution. Nayab Khan, a 50-year-old villager, found her body, dressed in her night gown, dumped at the gate of a government school about one kilometer from her home. Although Banerjee’s face had been obliterated by several of the 15-20 bullets that police say her executioners had fired into her, Nayab immediately realized who the dead woman was.  “She was not wearing a normal Afghan village woman’s dress and chador,” he told The Daily Beast. “So I knew it was the Indian wife of Janbaz.”

  • Afghan women wait to receive free food donated by Muslim Hands, a not-for-profit organization, during the second week of the holy month of Ramadan in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, July 19, 2013. (Rahmat Gul/AP)


    The 9/11 Legacy for Afghan Women

    Afghan women’s rights have been extolled as one of the great, perhaps only, successes of America’s longest war. But the situation on the ground remains precarious, says Kimberley Motley.

    As I entered the room to meet my client Sahar Gul, the frail teenager recited how she was beaten, burned, starved, enslaved, and tortured for months in her in-laws’ basement for refusing to be trafficked as a prostitute. President Hamid Karzai told the international press that her case would be “seriously investigated” and ordered the immediate arrest of those who tortured her so severely, she could not walk and was forced to eat intravenously for months. Even after the inhumane abuse Gul was subjected to and the edict given by Karzai, the perpetrators of these this horrendous acts were released by a three-judge tribunal, and the justice system exhibited yet another epic failure in protecting a young woman. Gul was a persona non grata to the secret court hearing that effected the release of those who tortured her. Atrocities against the women of Afghanistan are still business as usual.

    Amazingly, Afghan women’s rights have been extolled as one of the great, perhaps only, successes of America’s longest war. But the reality is very different; true justice and progress for Afghan women in Afghanistan remains painfully elusive.