First Person Blog

Voices, video, and photos from Oxfam's fight against poverty

Lives interrupted in Afghanistan

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Afghanistan women by travis beard

I just wanted to share this striking photo from a slideshow related to The Cost of War, a new Oxfam report documenting the human cost of chronic conflict and disorder in Afghanistan. Taken by Travis Beard, it shows women shopping for new burqas in a bazaar in Herat.

At first glance, I thought it was a beautiful image, the stiff folds of fabric falling like drapes in a Renaissance painting. Then I read a little more about women’s experiences in Afghanistan under extremist rule, and the more haunting elements—the cold blue light, the claustrophobic space, the bent and faceless figures—came to the forefront.

When the Taliban came to power, most Afghan women were banned from work and not allowed to leave home without a male escort and a full-length burqa. These draconian laws left many women considering suicide.

“During the Taliban period, our life was bad, because we didn’t have the freedom to go outside,” said one Kandahar woman. According to the report, 42 percent of women surveyed in Kabul now meet the conditions for post-traumatic stress disorder.

More than 700 Afghan people spoke to Oxfam and partners about their experiences for the report. Check out more of their photos and stories in our new slideshow, Lives Interrupted.

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