My father always said he could spot me in any crowd of women wearing burqas because I walk like a penguin. You have no peripheral vision because of the netting in front of your eyes — and it’s hot and suffocating under there.
The most useful thing about these long blue robes is that you can hide schoolbooks and other forbidden objects beneath them. Under the Taliban I also appreciated the anonymity of the burqa when I had to walk to and from the illicit lessons I gave for girls. Today, however, I don’t feel safe under the thickest veil, even though I have armed guards. My visitors are searched for weapons and even the flowers at my wedding had to be checked for bombs.
I was driving through Kabul not long ago when a friend and I decided to stop for ice-cream. I thought I’d be safe uncovering myself for just a few minutes to enjoy it. “You are Malalai Joya, right?” said one of the customers almost immediately. My friend and I had to eat up quickly and leave. You never know who’ll make a telephone call. More...
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