Two years ago, on August 15 2021, the Taliban entered Afghanistan's capital city of Kabul and took control of the country.
Credit: Weaveravel, via Wikimedia Commons
Credit: Callum Darragh, via Wikimedia Commons
(Credit: USAID, Pixnio)

Nearly 4,000 miles away, an Israeli-American journalist named Danna Harman – who had traveled to Afghanistan four years prior to report on an all-girls robotics team – was on holiday in Venice. Her phone was blowing up with messages from Afghan women she knew, asking for help. So, she started making some calls. That was just the beginning of an escape operation that helped nearly 200 Afghans relocate – first to Tajikistan, then to a refugee camp in Abu Dhabi, then finally to Canada. 

With Harman’s help, we got in touch with some women who fled Afghanistan – as well as some women who are still there. And we want to share their stories with you.

What do you think of when you hear “Afghan woman”?

“You probably were expecting a shy little girl who was dominated by men her whole life.”

-Marwa Dashty

For many, stereotypical images of women in burqas come to mind. We might picture Afghan women being oppressed by men, subservient, staying at home, speaking when spoken to. Hidden from the public eye.

Every now and then, maybe we’ll see a news feature about an Afghan “genius girl” who excels in sports or in STEM. Good for her, we think. And we treat her as an exception to the stereotype, rather than an example of what all Afghan women are capable of. 

This way of thinking can be traced to the endless stream of news stories telling us about the ways in which Afghan women are oppressed, which too often eclipses their identities – their sense of humor, quiet moments of rebellion and their poetic way of speaking.

Our goal with this project is to give Afghan women – those who fled and those who stayed behind – a platform for visibility at a time when the Taliban seeks to erase them from public life. We hope to paint a fuller picture than what’s typically seen. Yes, there is painful inequity and a collapse of rights and dreams. But there is still hope in all the fear, and glimmers of defiance in the midst of brutal oppression. 

“So now, with 70,000 to 80,000 Afghans coming to the U.S., I’d recommend allowing them to join the community in your city in your neighborhood.Talk to them, learn about their life and see how you can help them. Having one-on-one interactions is helpful. Open your eyes about who they were in their country and what they were doing, and rely on in-person, direct contact with people. That would help them a lot, rather than just the stories that the media tries to sell out.”

-Fereshteh Forough

A Timeline of Women in Afghanistan

Breakthroughs and Setbacks