The reality of Afghan women in the documentary “Afghanes”

DAfghan women. «Women with muzzles. Prisoners, caged under burqas, eternal victims of the barbarity of the Taliban.” This is the still image that the story of Afghanistan has given us over time. A story that the French journalist and filmmaker Solène Chalvon-Fioriti, 36 years old, contradicts.

Another women's freedom has been canceled in Afghanistan: beauty salons are closing

The reporter who has been exploring the condition of Afghan women for over a decade through reports, documentaries and books, with the novel-reportage The woman here is revealed: an Afghan story,”The woman who awoke: an Afghan story,” he recounted his encounter with the Pill Force, an underground feminist network that distributed abortion pills in universities and the countryside Afghans, and with its leader, Layle, a powerful and rebellious woman, murdered seven years later by her brother.

With the documentary for TV Afghans tells four generations of women and, with them, the history of an entire country. «A feminine word that has long been confiscated since the Taliban regained power» explains Solène a I woman. “But the fundamentalists are only the last in a long list.” From the Soviets to the NATO forces, from the mujahideen to the ephemeral Republic that collapsed in 2021the film shows, also thanks to important archival materials, how Afghan women have always been reduced to invisibility, even by their alleged liberators.

A moment from the documentary Afghanes.

Afghan women’s struggle for visibility

He has witnessed the transformation of the country over the last decade. Why did you immediately choose the female condition to tell it?
When I first arrived in Afghanistan I worked for left-wing editorial offices, Liberation, Radio France, but even for them the representation of the Afghan women had to be necessarily miserable. But women in Afghanistan are not gagged, their word exists. Of course, you have to work hard to listen to it, you have to go, look for a translator, have patience. And now the Taliban no longer give journalist visas, but you can always invent something. I go with the UN, with NGOs, I ask for visas for training.

Solène Chalvon-Fioriti. © Marie Rouge / Unifrance.

His film shows indomitable women: we glimpse young girls with books in a tailoring atelier.
Women do not give up working or even studying. The private sector in Afghanistan, since the beauty salons have closed, is the only one where women still have a minimum margin of maneuver: and in textiles they are really very good. But the private sector is completely on the ground due to international sanctions and the West refuses to reflect on this, extinguishing the only flame still burning for them. The women there don’t give up: they manage to register their companies thanks to a chaperon, a father, a brother. And it’s true, tailoring ateliers are becoming clandestine schools.

The documentary Afghanes by Solène Chalvon-Fioriti.

How does he move on the ground in such a dangerous place?
Afghanistan has become my place: my son was conceived there, the most important friends I have, my son’s godmother, live there. Over time I learned how to move, the first few times I did a lot of silly things, I hugged people in the street and the street is a hostile place. Now I cover myself a lot, even my face, which I didn’t once do, because I don’t want to put the people with me in difficulty. And with a video camera everything is more difficult. It’s easy to hide under the burqa if you only have a notepad and a pen. But there is only the image to tell that reality, there is no written word that can convey the faces of those women, their smiles and their pain. Today I could no longer make a film like that Afghans, and a year has passed, but the situation has changed a lot. The women I meet are so demoralized that I try to smile, ask questions about life, talk about weddings and parties, because for them today the daily reality is unbearable.