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Female Newscaster Is Back on Afghan TV


Women in the parts of Afghanistan freed from Taleban control are rediscovering their public lives. For the five years that the Taleban ruled most of Afghanistan, women were banned from work and forced to stay at home. For professional women, the departure of the Taleban means getting back to work. One especially well-known woman in Afghanistan is emerging from the shadows of life under the Taleban.

It has been five years since Jamila Mujahid entered the homes of Afghans via the 7:30 pm nightly Pashto newscast on Afghanistan's main television station.

When the Taleban seized control of Kabul in 1996, they sent Jamila Mujahid home, and shut down the television station. But now, the Taleban are gone, and Jamila Mujahid is back at work. She says her first day back was like a dream.

"As much as I was happy, I couldn't feel anything at that time. I was quite happy. I couldn't control my pronunciation, how can I read, how can I pronounce? I was thinking that I see something in my dream, that after five years, a car is coming and brings me to the station, and I am reading something," she said.

Before 1996, when the Taleban took control of Kabul, Jamila Mujahid was one of the best known women in Afghanistan. As a television news reader for 15 years, she had become a well-known presence in the homes of Afghans. Afghans turned to Jamila Mujahid when they wanted to hear the latest news.

All that changed when the Taleban seized power. Under their strict interpretation of Islam, television was banned; women were sent home to lead a cloistered life, only able to venture out in the company of a male relative.

She says she was able to cope with the situation because she was raising five children. Still, she says, she missed work and felt hopeless and depressed much of the time.

The woman's cloistered life abruptly changed, recently, when the Taleban abandoned Kabul, and Northern Alliance forces entered the city. Northern Alliance leaders prefer to be called the United Front. They quickly announced an immediate emancipation of women, saying girls and women could be educated, go back to work, and, if they chose to do so, abandon their burkas, the all-encompasing garment that the Taleban forced women to wear.

The TV newsreader says she would like to abandon her burka, but for the time being, she will not. The security situation in Kabul is still unsettled, and she says her burka offers her a measure of protection when she leaves her home or the TV studio.

She says there are still too many men on Kabul's streets with guns for a woman to venture into public without her burka. She says life under the Taleban was harsh, but it was also safe.

Now, as Afghans enter another unsettled period in their history, Jamila Mujahid says she is glad to be back at work. She says the best thing about her job is the feeling that, by entering people's homes every night, she is a participant in the history of Afghanistan.

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