May 27, 2008

View from a grain of sand

By sanjar

Women in Afghanistan were not suddenly plunged into brutal un-freedom when the Taliban came to power in 1996. Nor have they always been subject to repressive rule. In a documentary that is both intimate and broadly political, Meena Nanji offers a view of the past thirty years of Afghanistan's history through the lives of three women.

Wajeeha is a literacy instructor and activist with the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA); her husband died fighting against the Soviets in the 1980s. Roeena is a defiantly unmarried doctor who works in refugee camps populated mostly by people who fled Afghanistan when competing warlords reigned in the mid-1990s. Shapire, along with her husband and children, fled Afghanistan after the Taliban assumed power. She now teaches girls in a refugee camp.

Via interviews, narration, and vrit and archival footage, Nanji compellingly argues that the loss of women's rights in Afghanistan is not a simple story that revolves around the Taliban. It is a much larger-and continuing-story of a nation that has suffered through near-constant war and mass displacement over several decades.

in 1989, the foreign powers withdrew, leaving Afghanistan with a power vacuum and an organized, well-armed movement of religious fundamentalists. From 1992 to 1996, competing warlords ruled. Another wave of people fled. In 1996, the Taliban came to power. U.S. readers should be well aware of what happened in Afghanistan in 2001.

The women in View from a Grain of Sand have lived through all of this. The film was shot in refugee camps and within Afghanistan over three visits-in fall 2000 (while the Taliban reigned and the world mostly ignored it); in fall 2001 (just after 9/11); and in 2003 (after the U.S. attacks, the fall of the Taliban, and the creation of a parliament dominated by the very same warlords who had reigned during the chaotic years of 1992 to 1996). Meena Nanji has documented her subjects' stories as they moved from obscurity to a focus of global attention. She has also documented the constancy of their struggles. These women's lives reflect continuous repression, lack of resources, and active work for change through a series of power shifts, all of which have been marked by violence and instability.