Afghan women are resilient and brave despite a culture that often reduces them to second-class citizens. These particular Afghan women, for instance, have decided to make their own story of sisterhood and resistance.
Editor Fatana Hassanzada and a dozen other female writers have created Gellara, Afghanistan’s first lifestyle and fashion magazine. It touches on everything from beauty products and breast cancer to the popular dating app, Tinder. Modeled after popular international publications like Vogue, Gellara dares to be different and even taboo in a conservative environment. The journalists’ hope is that the magazine will expand conversations about women’s issues, creating a sisterhood where the conversation is not controlled by men.
The magazine brings the threat of violence for those involved in producing it, and Hassanzada and her team are fully aware that there will be backlash. Their five months of hard work could be destroyed in the blink of an eye by people who have not even bothered to crack the first page.
Yet this would not be Hassanzada’s first brush with violence. Several years ago, when she was a TV presenter, she was forced to escape to Kabul from Mazar-i-Sharif with her family after a group of men ordered her to stop her work and then stabbed her younger brother in the street.
Journalism in Afghanistan has become an incredibly dangerous job. According to The Guardian, during a promotional visit to Kabul University, students from the Islamic law faculty protested Gellara and called the magazine “infidel.” Things had gotten pretty hostile before security arrived. Moreover, Hassanzada says, “Three of our reporters study there. I am worried something will happen to them.”
Currently, Gellara sells for the equivalent of $1.50. All of the reporters are volunteers, excepting two male designers on the team who are paid and work on a freelance basis. Printing is funded by a business that advertises in the magazine.
Gellara’s target audience is educated high school and college-age Afghan women. Hassanzada knows from personal experience the profound thirst for knowledge and for a conversation led for women, by women. She experienced the same thing while she was in college.
Gellara is trying to find a balance between discussing complex topics such as second wave-feminism and still appealing to a large variety of women. If the magazine only discusses ideologies that cater to the educated elite, it loses the opportunity of having a bigger audience. The important thing is for the writers’ pieces to represent female empowerment rather than coming off as propaganda, but sadly, many women, particularly those in rural areas, would not even come in contact with the magazine unless their husbands brought it home.
Nevertheless, the courage of these reporters in their act of rebellion is inspiring and demonstrates a step in the right direction for Afghanistan.
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