Behind the Burqa: A Woman Photographer’s View of Afghanistan


Photo by Farzana Wahidy

Under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, women’s rights were completely stripped away. Women were not allowed to pursue their education, all girls’ schools were closed down, women were not allowed to work, and they were ordered to remain in their houses.

Raised in Afghanistan during the Taliban era, Farzana Wahidy was forced to go to school in secret in a small apartment in Kabul. At the age of 11, she helped teach mathematics to 60 other girls.

ar-poster-08-in[1].jpgWhen the Taliban were defeated, Farzana Wahidy continued her education and enrolled in a program sponsored by AINA Photojournalism Institute, Afghanistan’s first photo agency. This placed her on the road to become a photojournalist for Agence France-Presse and the Associated Press.

In 2004, Wahidy received a scholarship to attend the photojournalism program at Loyalist College in Belleville, Ontario, where she now resides. She is 24.

Earlier this month she was a featured photographer at the National Geographic 2008 All Roads Film Festival. Her photographs and those of three other featured photographers are accompanying the festival’s tour of U.S. cities.

Here is one of Farzana’s photos in the All Roads exhibit:


Photo by Farzana Wahidy

I asked Farzana, when she was at National Geographic headquarters a week or so ago, to talk about the photo she made from behind a burqa, the traditional head-covering worn by Afghan women. During the time of the Taliban it was mandatory for all women in Afghanistan to wear the burqa when outdoors.

She talks about the photo, which is at the top of the page, on this video:

Video by David Braun/National Geographic News




“During the Taliban regime, I witnessed many important stories but did not know how to share them until I discovered photojournalism.”


“For me, photography is an international language. I chose photojournalism because through it I found freedom, and it opened the possibility of sharing the stories of my community with the world.”



 Here are a few more of Farzana’s photographs from the exhibit:






Additional information:

Farzana Wahidy (Warshooter)

Farzana Wahidy (Lightstalkers)

Farzana Wahidy (New Internationalist)

Afghanistan’s Orphans  (Audiovisual exhibition by Farzana Wahidy & Shikiba Babori)

A Glimpse of the World From Behind a Burqa (Washington Post)

Changing Planet

Meet the Author
More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn