Girl Power in Afghanistan (Video)

Even in war-weary Afghanistan and its seemingly endless horror, the case of a 15-year-old girl named Sahar Gul shocked and ashamed many Afghans.

The teenager was rescued from weeks of imprisonment and torture at the hands of her husband’s family. She had been sold to the family to pay a debt but she refused to become a prostitute to bring in more money. She was cut, burned with cigarettes, beaten to a pulp and many of her fingernails were ripped out. She was barely alive when police found her.

But she was not abandoned. Another young woman, 19-year-old Noorjahan Akbar, refused to look away.

In this video from ABC Australia, which looks at how two very different women are contributing to a shared hope for the ascendency of female rights, aspiration and opportunity in one of the most dangerous and oppressive places on earth, Akbar says:

“I think when you are born a woman in Afghanistan you are taught every day to hate yourself. We don’t know how to respect women, neither men nor women, no one knows it, women don’t respect themselves.”

The video follows Akbar on a visit to Sahar in hospital and is a witness to a profoundly moving meeting. A deep friendship has developed between the two and Noorjahan spends time consoling and encouraging Sahar, even treating her mangled fingers to a manicure.

Australian TV producer Trudi-Ann Tierney has witnessed a groundswell of aspiration and a push for change among the young women she encounters in her role as head of drama at Kabul’s Tolo TV and elsewhere in the capital. She says:

“I see now a generation of amazing young women who are so progressive and smart and determined to make a change and to sustain change within society.”

With Tierney’s help, TV which challenges taboos is being produced. But she has a problem. It’s hard enough being a working woman in Afghanistan, but it’s asking for trouble to be on television acting out the problems in someone else’s fictional life. The video documents her problems as one actress flees after threats from her family.

Akbar’s organisation, Young Women for Change (YWC), has decided to name the first all-women Internet cafe in Afghanistan SAHAR GUL. It opened in early March. They say:

It is named after her to remind every woman coming to internet café to remember how powerful a woman can be. Women like Sahar Gul are symbol of power and hope. Her name will be reminder for all Afghan women to remember that no matter what, they have the right to stand up and start their live all over again. They have the right to live even if all doors are closed to her face.

Every time a woman comes to our internet café and sees the name she will remember the power. They will always remember the fact that women are not only about what others describe them to be. Women are powerful; one doesn’t have to do great things but just fighting for your right makes you brave and powerful enough. If all of us have the power to at least fight for ourselves, no one will dare to tell us that we are not capable.

Watch ABC Australia’s inspiring report on Noorjahan Akbar, Trudi-Ann Tierney and the women of Afghanistan:

Related stories:

Afghan Child Bride Tortured For Refusing Prostitution

Koran Burning: It’s Not Afghans’ #1 Concern

Opening a New Era for the Women of Afghanistan


devon leonard
Devon Leonard5 years ago

I'm always thankful when I hear or read about someone who walks courageously into life and stands up for what is right against all odds.... We are all inspired tp live more fully by these beautiful examples of humanity at it's best! We ARE powerful.... we don't all have to do Great things..we just need to Do what we can...don't break the chain..!!!

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

what can we do to help?

nicola w.
Jane H5 years ago

Wow , I know Afghanistan needs them but I would love to have these young brave clever ambitious women immigrate to Australia ...
Instead we get boat loads of young men - I always wonder where their female relatives are ...obviously the family isn;t going to spend money sending girls ..
Hideous place !

yana dimitrova
yana dimitrova5 years ago

Dear friends, I would like to take up a few moments and share with you some of my thoughts and understanding about the urgency of helping our Planet Earth. And I would like to thank you for willingness to listen. Dear friends we are living in days of change and ending of the old. Please friends awake your minds and embrace the dream world of a love and peace. I would like to ask you friends to stand for the change and step up! Pray dear friends, pray for our Home Earth every day! And whenever you gather and meet- please friends, speak up and spread the message! Be part of the change and multiply this emergency call by 6 billion! Thank you friends for awaking for the truth and halting duality to an end! Blessings!

John J.
John J5 years ago

Gotta admit the islamic respect accorded to women- is an empty bowl

"A lot of quotation have been given out of context ensuring maximum damage to the image of a religion THAT TAUGHT HUMANITY (there's a porkie) 1400 years ago. Yes we should expect nothing better from those who are hell bent on doing their dirty deeds (what ever their religious, racial or gender background)"

The world's a scale where men are weighed -
The worse they are the more they boast;
But that's the way that scales are made -
The emptier pan's the uppermost.

AbdulAziz A.
AbdulAziz A5 years ago

The good men and women of US and other nations have been in Afghanistan for over a decade. I would like to see what they have achieved other than killing many thousands of innocent men, women and children, destroying their mud huts and fields and lives?

Let's bring the matter to a perspective, despite occupation of this land, the Western protectors of "liberty, democracy, and humanity" have failed to stop these crimes taking place and so openly. Why?

Perhaps they are also too busy raping their own colleagues, getting drunk, on drugs or busy urinating over the dead bodies of their enemies.

Rob & Jay and other Islamophobes will attack Muslims and Islam at any given opportunity and this is yet another example of their enmity.

A lot of quotation have been given out of context ensuring maximum damage to the image of a religion that taught humanity 1400 years ago. Yes we should expect nothing better from those who are hell bent on doing their dirty deeds (what ever their religious, racial or gender background)

J.L. A.
JL A5 years ago

Kudos to these women for their courage!

Bernard Cronyn
5 years ago

So senor Gosta Z. we humbly beseech you to tell us where we can get the TRUE facts on this situation. From you for example, given your extensive travels in Afghanistan and your knowledge of several tribal dialects over there? These sources quoted seem quite varied including the relatively Left Wing Guardian that surely would be approved of by your philosophy but that seems to not be the case.

Carol Dreeszen
Carol Dreeszen5 years ago

It is so sad to see and hear this kind of action against women in Afghanistan and in other parts of the world. It's almost impossible to think man would disregard women as less than or unimportant to the point of being a possession!! How pathetically sick this is!! What courage this young woman had and to have her fingernails ripped out My God What brutality these people have and to think it is the "family" that does it is beyond insane! There appears to be so much total ignorance in this part of the world it is shameful!! God Bless this woman and I hope this cause is very successful!!

Lydia S.
Lydia S5 years ago

@ Gosta Z who wrote: "I don't know why exactly, but by instinct I'd say there is something that stinks in this story. Frankly I 've got quite different information about Afghan reality (not reality show course)."

I'm not sure I understand your comment ... Please explain what you mean? Have you been to Afghanistan?