Portraits of Afghanistan
Five years after the Taliban’s fall, much of the country is in the grip of violence. But some Afghans have seen their lives transformed
By Justin Huggler
Published: 13 November 2006
Rohgul Walidzada, 38, Organiser, Local Politician
The toughest moment in Rohgul Walidzada’s fight for women’s rights was in 2000 when she was one of the first four women who dared to walk in the streets of Baharak, a town deep in the valleys of the hindu Kush in the remote north-east.
Despite wearing a burka, she faced criticism and insults, which only got worse when she dared go to the Afghan Aid’s office and ask for a job. “People called me Dollari and said I should be burnt because I wanted a job outside the home,” she recalls. Since then, she has gone on to become a local organiser for the Aga Khan Foundation and stood for Parliament against Burhanuddin Rabbani, a former president.
“I resigned from my job, hired a car at my own expense and travelled to all the districts in the province. I had no problem with men. They knew me from my work on community development and supported my ideas.” She narrowly lost, but is adamant she will stand again in 2009.
Like many Afghans, Rohgul has overcome great hardship. A science teacher for 18 years, she is the mother of five daughters and a son who was just 40 days old when they had to flee Kabul, walking 100 miles then travelling by truck cross the front line to the relative safety of Badakhshan. “We thought we would be killed as we had no permission to escape, but we had to carry on.” Life has improved since then. She and her husband both have jobs, their two eldest daughters are at Kabul University studying engineering. But tongues continue to wag. “The other day a mullah denounced my husband as a Communist and people question my morals because I sometimes stay at the office guesthouse away from my family.”