I was born and raised here in Kabul. My father worked in a shop that made wood-burning Afghan heaters. Sometimes when I was a little girl, my older brother and I would be working with him in the shop. My father was a big hand in back of my success. After a while, the civil war came and we went to live with my uncle in Pakistan.
For 11 years we lived there and that’s where I finished my school. When the Taliban were expelled, we came back to Kabul and I worked as a public relations assistant. Now I’m a free-lance photographer and translator and I also work as the marketing manager for a printing company. I have travelled to the Netherlands for training and to India for 2 months to study photography. Now I travel all over Afghanistan with people who hire me to translate.
This did not happen easily. When my director first asked me to travel to Herat to translate for them, I told them that I could never get permission. So, she came with me to talk with my father and in the end he laughed and said “since you have come to my house, I cannot reject you, so I will let her go.”
So I went and everything went smoothly. Shortly afterwards, they wanted me to return to Herat with them but this time my father said “I let you go the first time and now you come asking me again. No, it’s not possible.” So, I cried and tried to convince him and over the weeks kept asking him and finally he agreed. I told him that I was born in war and I will die in war.
I can’t wait for a better situation. He laughed and said “I wish you were a son”. I said to him “Look, my father, if anybody outside my home sees me, and they see my attitude and the way I am talking with people they are not looking at me as a woman, they think of me as a man. They are not looking at me as a girl. So this is how I made myself able to go outside of Kabul and outside the country. I went to India for two months alone. Now he has allowed me to work on projects that require me being away for three weeks at a time, and even here, sometimes I have to work late. He just asks that I call him to let him know I’m OK.
What do you like most about photojournalism?
I find that through the pictures I’m taking, I’m getting to know about the women’s personal lives and the way they’re living in that area and how they overcome their problems. We have a lot of problems in Afghanistan, especially in the rural areas. And you really see how women are living there and especially how they are facing their difficulties. I remember my time in Bamiyan.
I talked there with a woman in a village of 70 people and I saw how difficult life is there, especially in the winter. The roads are completely blocked and if a woman is pregnant, she might die. There is no nearby clinic for them. Nobody can help them. And there’s no school for the children.
And when I was there I saw how people are suffering because there is little access for everything. I said okay, there is no security problem. There is no fighting like the people talk about in the South. It’s completely safe and calm. It’s a good place to go, the environment is good. Why aren’t there more projects to help people there? Development for women is mostly in the cities and I am fine with that; for me I can work for that. But for the people living in very remote areas, think just once about those people, where are the development projects for them?
Profile and pictures provided to us by and copyrighted to Peggy Kelsey, of Kelsey Photography taken from her book “Gathering Strength: Conversations with Afghan Women”