Plane cancelled again... something about bad weather.
Nice and sunny hear though and instead we had a trip almost to the Uzbeck border in search of some hot springs and a sulphur Gizer. Impressively smelly ! :-)
It was nice to have a bit of time to chill out today. I had a good chat with Shafika, Khalids older sister. She's had a hard life, married at 14, 7 children, difficulties with in-laws, displaced by war and violence and never had the chance for a formal education, . She doesn't leave the house much but says she's a lot happier these days.
One of the reasons I wanted to come here was to meet Afghan women and hear their stories. In the west we often here that Islamic countries give no rights to women, the worst example of this being the Taliban rule. Why on earth would my free and liberal friend Zahra possibly want to go and live in a society like this? I think even she admits that if the work she was doing here did not give her so much satisfaction she wouldn't be able to stay. (That ....and she feel in love! )
So whats the reality like? From what I've seen the ideal Afghan woman today is one who covers her face, averts her gaze and maintains a silence. This wasn't always the case, 40 years ago a women's status in Afghan society was approaching equal to a man but more than 30 years of war have had a huge cost on women's liberties.
Since coming here I haven't been out alone. This isn't just because I am a security risk but there just aren't many women out walking alone on the streets. Men don't approach but you feel their gaze and comments. This is obviously less so in the more cosmopolitan areas but this is definitely a mans world. Women have less educational and employment opportunities and even though many more girls are going to school, acid attacks have happened to girls as young as 6. All the women in the hospital wanted baby boys and Zahra said their husbands and inlaws would treat them badly and possibly even beat them if they.
I dont think this is all down to Islamic fundamentalism. Nor is it just the men themselves, the women are some of the biggest mysogenists according to Zahra. During the Mujahideen and Taliban times the violence against women was barbaric. Khalid was an undercover activist during the time and photographed many abuses, some of his photos can be seen at www.rawa.org.
Enought of this serious email. Hopefully we will be going to Herat tomorrow or Im going to start getting Cabin Fever!