These images were selected from Canadian photojournalist Lana Slezic’s book, “Forsaken,” which were shot over her two years in Afghanistan. In a documentary for tvo (seen here), Lana says she always gravitates towards photographing women, describing an unspoken language - a universal body language - which she feels exists between the women she photographs and herself regardless of locale or barriers in spoken language.
Lana became quite close with Malalai Kakar, the first and only female police officer in Kandahar, who can be seen in the last photo. A mother of six, Malalai became a police officer prior to the Taliban’s rise, and, once they were ousted, began working as the head of the city’s department for crimes against women. In September 2008, Malalai was assissanted in front of her children at their home by the Taliban.
Says Lana, “She was killed so unjustly and why? Because she was a woman with power, because she was helping other women.” That photo now hangs above her home computer. “My work represent a very emotional journey that has given me an insight into the lives of Afghan women, which is largely horrific. I hope that [this] collection of photographs will communicate, influence and inspire others to learn more about the plight of Afghan women,” she says.
Many of these women are better described as girls, like eleven year old Gulsuma, seen in the third photo, who was found by Lana in an orphanage. Gulsuma was married off for 60 dollars when she was four, and was physically tortured for seven years before eventually running away. Sixteen year old Lida, seen hiding behind a door with her nails done in the eighth photo, was recently married off, and now no longer attends school (such as the one seen in the fourth photo, made from an abandoned, war torn building) or is permitted to see her own family.
The Human Rights Commission in Kandahar claims that 86% of women in Afghanistan are clinically depressed. Many who don’t run away instead attempt suicide by self immolation, like nineteen year old Zaha seen in the fifth photo. As Lana says, “Most Afghan women and girls understand all too well the concept of fear and subservience.”
She adds, “As human beings it is our responsibility to not only see and hear, but to listen and act.” For more on Afghan women, see these posts.