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Afghan Women <i>'Unveiled'</i> - 2002-04-14

In 1997, award-winning British photo-journalist Harriet Logan went on assignment to Afghanistan to photograph Afghan women. After the collapse of the Taleban government in November of 2001, she returned to seek out those same women. Her new book of photographs, "Unveiled," documents the stories of these once voiceless women.

Ms. Logan secretly interviewed and photographed Afghan women in their homes for a story in the "London Sunday Times" magazine. The Taleban had decreed it illegal to photograph people, especially women, in Afghanistan. She was so moved by the women and their courage that last year she returned to find out what had become of them.

Ms. Logan says all the stories in the book are important, but one story touched her in particular. Zargoona was a physics teacher and a widow with a young son before the Taleban came to power and forbade women to work. Ms. Logan spoke with Zargoona on both of her trips. "When I found her again, this time in 2001, her life just got worse," she says. "She has cancer now. She can't afford to treat herself. She'd been trying to make money as a teacher in the last year of the Taleban. And just three months before I saw her in November, she had been beaten because some neighbors had told the Taleban that she was teaching."

While Zargoona's story offers little hope, many of the women Ms. Logan re-encountered were looking to the future with cautious optimism.

Her translator in Afghanistan provides her with news over the Internet. "She sends me e-mails, kind of weekly, now, and she says, you know, 'I wish you could see it now. Women are beginning…now I walk without a burkha.' And she wasn't even considering that when I was there and that's just a few months later that she's actually been able to take it off," she says.

Ms. Logan shares the stunning photographs and intimate stories of 23 Afghan women in "Unveiled." From a 9-year-old girl who can now hold her doll in public to a 55-year-old widow who today works for a carpet-making project, the book follows the stories of a variety of Afghan women with the same hope of attaining freedom.

Ms. Logan says she hopes the book will keep alive the plight of the Afghan people, especially the women. Too often, she says, Western society and its media lose interest in a story when the big news is over. She says this cannot happen to Afghanistan. "I think that for Afghanistan, that would be a really big disaster if we move away from it, particularly after making such a commitment. I think the hope of Afghan people is very much geared on a continued focus from the West on what their future is going to be," she says.

"Unveiled" provides a peak at what some Afghan women are seeing publicly for the first time in years, the unveiled faces of female models on beauty products and pictures of Indian and Western actresses in shops. An array of photographs in the marketplace signifies what one woman in the book says is Afghanistan "coming out of a dark period into the sunshine."