Incredible scenes from women’s liberation in Afghanistan in the 1970s – .

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Incredible scenes from women’s liberation in Afghanistan in the 1970s – .


In most parts of the world, women’s rights have advanced over the past 50 years, even at a gradual pace. And then there is Afghanistan.

Women had made strides over the past two decades – becoming high-ranking police officers and regional governors, forming cricket teams – in cities like Kabul and Bamiyan. But now, with the Taliban in charge, it is all gone, as women flee for their lives, hide in their homes, or die at the hands of the new government.

For those old enough to remember it, it’s a heartbreaking reminder of half a century ago, when Afghan women began to step out from under the veil – to see their dreams shattered.

Laurence Brun Lacombe in Switzerland, 2021.
Lacombe in Afghanistan, 1972.

French photographer Laurence Brun Lacombe lived in Afghanistan, with her husband, from 1971 to 1972, and took numerous photos of women across the country. For one thing, much of what she saw looked like what she had been for centuries.

“Outside of Kabul, all the women wore the chador [burkha]», Remembers Lacombe. “I went to the countryside in the houses of the peasants, in Nuristan and in Jalalabad. [As a woman,] I couldn’t travel alone.

But in Kabul, the new city, women were exploring new freedoms – attending co-ed classes with men and pursuing careers as nurses, teachers and civil servants. “Most of the women wore the veil and… a few schoolgirls went with just [a head scarf].  »

It required a certain bravery.

“Some women were fighting for their rights, but the traditions were very strong, so it was not that easy,” Lacombe said.

One day, she comes across a group of young women in miniskirts. “I was puzzled,” recalls the photographer. “I didn’t believe what I saw… They were very young and naive students.

Women in Afghanistan.

Students in Kabul, 1972.
Students in Kabul, 1972.

School of Nursing and Midwifery
Nursing and midwifery school at “Zoichga” hospital, Kabul.

“It was a tiny percentage of girls and students who wore short skirts and it was dangerous for them. They might have acid [splashed] on their legs.

In 1973, it seemed that there was real hope for women in Afghanistan: King Zahir Shah was overthrown in 1973 by his cousin, Mohammed Daoud Khan, a pro-Soviet general who proposed a new constitution and gave new rights and freedoms for women.

But the modernizations were too controversial and the general was killed five years later. In 1979, after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the United States severed ties with the country’s government and, along with Britain and China, began funding anti-Soviet Mujahedin fighters – who have eventually formed the Taliban.

Amid all the fighting, all the little hard-earned gains by women in the country were gone – just as they still are today.

Lacombe, for his part, will always have a place for Afghanistan in his heart: “Everyone I know who has been there cannot forget this country. But, she added, “It’s so sad what’s going on now. “

Young Afghan flight attendant, Kabul.
Young Afghan flight attendant, Kabul.
Laurence BRUN/RAPHO

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