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Women's oppression in Afghanistan

Hilary Hart is author of two books about women's spirituality, and is an adjunct faculty member at Antioch University in Seattle.

Witness to darkness

While the Presidential candidates debate over how to fight terrorism in Afghanistan, women in that country face a day-to-day worsening situation, in which they still suffer from domestic violence, are killed in "honor murders," used to pay off debt, denied basic education and health care, and commit suicide to escape a life in which there is little or no reflection of their basic human worth.

A reminder of the plight of Afghani women comes through a "Hero" award just granted to Denise Zabalaga, a Swiss photographer and filmmaker who traveled alone through the country witnessing and documenting women's oppression after the fall of the Taliban.

Witness to darkness
Denise Zabalaga, Swiss photographer and filmmaker

"This was an obvious choice," says Ann Medlock, Director of the award-granting Giraffe Project, which commends individuals around the world who 'stick their neck out' for the common good. "Denise's courage is inspiring, and the world cannot forget the women of Afghanistan."

To earn her "risk-taking" award, Zabalaga left behind her job as a photo editor in New York in 2002 to travel alone through post-Taliban Afghanistan to discover what had happened to women after their so-called liberation. How far had conditions changed for women in Afghanistan?

To prepare for her journey, Denise spent three months in Iran studying Persian. Then she crossed the border.

"I was a foreigner wearing a chador, speaking their language – a woman traveling alone. This was very difficult – and yet I trusted that I would be all right," she says.

Witness to darkness

Once in the country...

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