18 august, 2016
The underground girls of Kabul *** (*)Posted in : Reviews in english on by : Lotte Tags: 3, 5 stars, Afghanistan, bacha posh, Jenny Nordberg, Kabul, non-fiction
I would happily be anything in this world – just not a woman. I could be a parrot. I could be a sheep. I could be a dear. I could be a sparrow living in a tree – just not an afghan woman.
The Swedish journalist Jenny Nordberg traveled through Afghanistan to reveal the story of Bacha Posh: the girls disguised as boys.
In a war torn country, where men are considered gods, it does not matter how much land you own or how much money you have – if you do not have sons, you are nothing and pitied for it. To be without sons brings great dishonor and shame to a family and hence there is a hidden practice of allowing a daughter to become a boy for a time, while society turns a blind eye to the practice. The girl-turned-boy gives her family more freedom or more income if she can work. It becomes a way for poor girls to support their families. According to superstition, the custom also can have the magical effect of allowing a real son to be born to the family.
Jenny Nordberg explores this practice through interviews with the girls and their families, and on the way explains Afghanistan’s history, culture and traditions in detail. To be disguised as boys brings a huge amount of freedom and possibilities to the girls, and all of them agree that being able to live as boys is a joy. But is also creates psychological and physical problems when the girls hit puberty and are forced to return to the restricted lives of girls.
I do not support the idea of a patriarch society, but the book gave me a certain understanding as to why the families chose as they did, because having a son really makes a difference in Afghanistan. Some of the women also stated, that growing up as boys has given them a lot of strength and power, that they would never have experienced if they had grown up as girls.
The book also looks into the different regimes of Afghanistan an how the western world thinks they can change the ways of the country overnight. The problem is, that they never take into consideration the culture of the country, and since they never reveal the hidden parts they have never succeeded in making any real change.
The interviews with the girls and their families were the most interesting in my opinion, but the book also contains lots of insight from psychologist and scientist which of course is necessary to get the full picture – but while reading their statements I could not help wonder: What do they really know about being women of Kabul?