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Women Share Stories of Abuse on New Afghanistan TV Show

Women Share Stories of Abuse on New Afghanistan TV Show

Reality TV has become a booming television trend that seems to have no limits.

From women competing for plastic surgery procedures to the infamous fist pumping escapades of the Jersey Shore, it seems that many of these shows don’t necessarily portray reality, but instead depict people in embarrassing, painful, or ridiculous situations for entertainment value. 

If done well, however, the power of reality TV cannot be overlooked. Something I learned in a most unlikely place – a new show in Afghanistan that focuses on women’s abuse called Niqab, meaning The Mask.

On the show, women share their stories of abuse at the hands of their husbands behind the safety of a half blue and half white mask. The blue side of the mask is meant to symbolize a burka and the oppression the women of Afghanistan have endured and the white side of the mask is meant to signify a woman’s innocence.

The stories the women share are chilling, like guest Saraya, who was forced to marry a known 58-year-old rapist at only 15-years-old.

The women share their stories with a studio audience made up of religious and legal experts and human rights campaigners who offer insight on their lives and in many cases clarify the injustices the women have faced.

Of Saraya’s story, one of the religious experts said, “Your marriage at such a young age to such an older man is against Islam…His behavior is against Islam and against the law.”

I imagine being able to share their stories and get perspective from experts can be a therapeutic experience for victims and women watching who find that they are not alone. The show can also help educate women about their rights, especially when it comes to marriage, many of which are still forced in the country.

My only fear, however, is the negative consequences women can face if they are discovered for sharing their stories or even tuning in and the anger men may feel for being represented publically in such a negative light.

The Man Behind the Mask

Interestingly, The Mask was created by 28-year-old Sami Mandi, who said he was inspired by his mother and all the mothers of Afghanistan whose work and suffering he believes goes unnoticed.

“I was always desiring to have something like the mask, like this show in our media…Because in Afghanistan, it’s very difficult for women to talk about their difficulties and their problems, and the violence they are facing in their home,” said Mandi.

Determined to give a voice to these women through the show, Mandi is hopeful he can help change the culture in Afghanistan.

“…we can use the life of these individuals as an example to show the people, I am sure we can make some changes in the life of the women. And I am sure we can change in the minds of men in Afghanistan.”

This is the kind of reality TV that can change lives.

I strongly encourage you to watch the video provided by CNN online.

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Photo by Moog used under a Creative Commons license.

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2:30AM PDT on Aug 1, 2011

This is so terrible. Always when i hear about terrible things it makes med sad, and i cannot understand how someone could do something terrible - hurt, rape or kill a person or animal. When i was a child this also happened to me... and surviving this is more terrible than not (parents and other may think different, but a victim?), living with all this pain... living with guilty feelings... full with hate for the own self
No one can understand, because most people cannot imagine this, cannot imagine how much it change. Some of them think, that this would not be so terrible, because all would make some sexual experiences, and so it would not matter if there were some without own interest or wish. This cruel and superficial society makes me sick.

"We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not yet learned the simple art of living together as brothers." (Martin Luther King)

6:03AM PST on Feb 15, 2011

Women and men, together, in all respects. Only then will world peace become possible

3:40AM PST on Feb 15, 2011

I honestly don't know how we can ever persuade these knuckle dragging men to treat their women as equals. I feel so sorry for these poor women. If sharing their stories helps them to cope and help their sisters to cope then it is to be commended.

5:18AM PST on Feb 11, 2011

It is good that they can share their problems. I wish their culture treated them with the care and respect that they deserve.

2:30PM PST on Feb 10, 2011

I feel for these poor women - if nothing else, being able to speak out and share their stories has a certain cathartic and healing effect. Are there any government efforts to help these women or legislate change as a result of this show?

10:13AM PST on Feb 10, 2011

It would be great if none of these women had to endure the things that they do, but they live in a different culture. It is easy for us here in America to say "They should do this, or do that, or they should be allowed to do this, or that", but the fact is that they live there and not here in America - the culture is completely different. Until the men in that culture are persuaded that women should have equal rights, nothing is going to change. Their tradition dates back thousands of years. It doesn't mean it's right, but I think change will be a long time coming, if ever, for the women who live there. It is not to the mens' advantage there for anything to change.

4:53AM PST on Jan 13, 2011

Bravo Sami Mandi!!!!!

3:47PM PST on Jan 12, 2011


5:26AM PST on Jan 12, 2011

I hope more shows like this one will help to bring change!

12:36AM PST on Jan 12, 2011

if anyone or organization is going to educate the afghanis,let them educate both the males and females because the women need the men to understand their situation and be sympathetic. no men i think from whatever culture want to see their mothers, daughters, sisters, nieces, etc. be treated unjustly or badly. the problem is, the men are as badly uneducated as the women. if the women alone are educated, there'll be a gender gap that will be detrimental for the safety of the women. and why would they (the men) want to educate the women if they themselves are uneducated. somebody has to teach the men and the women to support each other.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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