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In photos: Pre-Taliban Afghanistan was a pretty good place to be a woman

Catch Photodesk | Updated on: 11 August 2017, 16:30 IST
Daily life in Kabul, one year before the civil war and at the beginning of the Soviet troop withdrawal. Young men and women stroll in Kabul park. (Patrick ROBERT/Sygma via Getty Images)

When one thinks of Afghanistan, especially Afghan women, what comes to mind? Women clad in floor-length burqas? Or perhaps Steve McCurry’s photograph of the Afghan girl with haunting green eyes? Unfortunately, the western perspective has greatly influenced how we imagine Afghanistan and its women today. Bombs, suicide attacks, Taliban, Al Qaeda, death, destruction, conservatism and repression. However, it wasn’t always like this.

In 1919, long before their American counterparts, Afghan women were declared eligible to vote. Through the 1940s, 50s and, in fact, right until the 1970s, women in Afghanistan wore miniskirts, dresses and a range of western attire. They attended school and university just like the men, worked in offices, and were given equal rights in society. Public spaces, colleges, and other institutions were freely accessible to women in pre-Taliban Afghanistan. 

In fact, according to a report released by the US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, it was estimated that by the early 1990s, 70% of schoolteachers, 50% of government workers and university students, and 40% of doctors in Kabul were women. 

While that is now a bygone time in the strife-torn country, here are a few images that show the degree of emancipation that was once enjoyed by women in pre-Taliban Afghanistan.

Unveiled women in Kabul in 1963, a sign of modernisation within the past five or six years. (James Burke/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Afghan women have been permitted to be unvieled in public since 1959. (Steven L. Raymer/National Geographic/Getty Images)
Young woman wears western dress and hairstyle in 1968, Kabul, Afghanistan. (Thomas J. Abercrombie/National Geographic/Getty Images)
Afghan women in 1979, Kabul, Afghanistan. (François LOCHON/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
First published: 11 August 2017, 16:30 IST