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Afghanistan and its first soap opera

Elizabeth Rubin’s piece in the New York Times Magazine is a fascinating human interest story on a woman named Adaba, who is an actress in Afghanistan’s first soap opera.  In deciding to appear on television, she has faced a lot of anger from her family.  It is a great read in its entirety, but I want to make sure everyone reads the concluding paragraph and a half, which I am posting here:

But if the Taliban do find a way back into government, they face a very different kind of Afghan woman this time around. The new generation that has grown up in the last decade has access to media. They see women as parliamentarians, lawyers, judges, professors, actresses, film directors, policewomen, even a governor. It is these new realities of women’s lives that will force the reinterpretation of the meaning of honor — the most radioactive ingredient in any discussion of cultural change.

Or at least in Kabul. In Kandahar and elsewhere in the Pashtun half of the country, the relationship between the family’s honor and society is hardly changing. In fact there’s a counterassault against women there. And it’s not hard to see why. Afghanistan missed 30 years of globalization. Now Afghans wake up assaulted by the Internet, Iranian culture, Indian TV, Pakistani mullahs, NATO bombs. Their culture and honor and lives are under siege from every direction. So who takes the brunt of the resulting frustration? The weakest, of course. But the weak can hit back. Girls are running away from forced marriages. Women have demanded a place at the peace jirga. They’ve forced passage of the first law criminalizing violence against women. They have been killed and maimed trying to change the world they were born into. And now they have taken up the pen and the camera, writing memoirs and novels, shooting documentaries, feature films and even a soap opera, to transcend their reality by seizing control of their own narrative.


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