Imitation is the biggest form of flattery right? 🙂
Today I’ve updated my Instagram feed with images I took on a trip to Afghanistan, photographing female Afghan parliament member Fawzia Koofi as well as researching stories on maternal health and woman, a subject that has been very close to my heart since I first started working in Pakistan in 2009.
I noticed that I started posting images on Instagram a little over a year ago.
Yet, I started photographing with my Iphone and the hipstamatic app in 2011.
For the fun of it, I went back into my archive to see what I had shot back then with my phone and there are still so many little gems and stories there that haven’t been posted on my Instagram because of this timing gap.
So I decided to finish my week delving in my phone archive and posting images from the ‘old box’ sort of say.
Today Afghanistan. Tomorrow back to Europe and my home town Antwerp.
Today terrible news from Badakshan, a remote region in the North East of Afghanistan. I visited this beautiful bur rough area two years ago together with Fawzia Koofi, the parliament member representing Badakshan.
Today, more the 2000 people are feared dead as a landslide buried most of an entire village in the area. Entombed in a blanket of earth nearly 30 feet deep, there is now no more hope for finding survivors…
I went into my archive, as I remember we visited a place that was affected by a landslide as well. Sadly this is very common in the mountainous area of Badakshan when springtime comes. Snow melts, heavy rains can fall, causing landslides, stone avalanches… No need to say how bad this is for one of the poorest places in our entire world.
The cover photo of this audiobook is a portrait I took of Fawzia when I met her in Belgium during a book conference. We immediately had an amazing conversation and talked about maternal mortality and life for women in Afghanistan. This talk led up to me getting on a plane to Kabul a little over a year later and actually visiting her and traveling to her home province of Badakshan in the North-Eastern part of the country. An incredibly beautiful place where the mountains rise up in full glory, but at the same time make life hard and rough.
Fawzia withdrew as a presidential candidate for the upcoming elections in 2014, but remains nonetheless an outspoken politician and human rights activist. She invests a lot of her time in trying to raise education levels, especially for girls who during the Taliban regime were not allowed to go to school at all. It’s wonderful to see how she inspires countless young women to study, work hard and aspire to a promising life .
I just started reading the book written by Malalai Yousafzai (cowritten with Christina Lamb), another girl who is fighting for the right to go to school in Pakistan. Shot in the face by Taliban when she was just 15 years old, because she voiced this right to an education for girls too loudly.
She survived wondrously and is now even more outspoken then before. What is sad to read though is that now in Pakistan, her book is banned in private schools and people are gearing up against her, feeling she is too pro- western and even call her anti-islamic. I’ve heard the same things happen to a rape victim I met while I was in Karachi and working on my story ‘Because I’m a girl’ on rape in Pakistan.
In 2002, Mukhtar Mai, a rural Pakistani woman from a remote part of the Punjab, was gang-raped by order of her tribal council as punishment for her younger brother’s alleged relationship with a woman from another clan. Instead of committing suicide or living in shame, Mukhtar spoke out, fighting for justice in the Pakistani courts.
Further defying custom, she started two schools for girls in her village and a crisis center for abused women.
She wrote her own memoir, “In the Name of Honor” and her story was included in the bestseller “Half the Sky” by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. But all this made people turn against her… I heard and read commentaries that she must have done this on purpose and that she got raped to get money or to try to get a visa to go the West. How else is her advocacy to be explained?
The responses to Mamala’s story feel the same as Mukhtar’s, and it’s a shame that these women are inspiring countless people all over the world but still can’t seem to be respected in their own country. There is still a long road ahead for sure and it’ only shows the need for more education of both boys and girls. Because education is key and can change things in the long run.
Fawzia Koofi is the first female elected Vice-President to Afghanistan’s parliament and is a candidate in the upcoming 2014 presidential elections of Afghanistan.
Despite repeated death threats from the Taliban, she remains an avid and outspoken women’s rights activist and is committed to raising the level of education and voicing problems women face in her war torn country.
All these images were taken on a trip I took with Mrs. Koofi to her home province of Badakshan. More images can be seen online on my website.