[Afghanistan] I’m a Woman Who Lived as a Boy: My Years as a Bacha Posh

Jenny Nordberg- Times – Tuesday, 16 September 204 (originally published 15 Sept)

The Underground Girls of Kabul
The Underground Girls of Kabul. Image: Times

Liberating. That’s how it felt, walking out the door for the first time as a boy. I was 12. I was no longer Faheema, who needed to be proper and watch her every move, but Faheem, who had guts and could go where he wanted. That was my right as a bacha posh—from Dari, it translates to, “dressed up as a boy.” It’s what they call girls who live their lives disguised as boys in Afghanistan. And I suppose those who eventually become boys on the inside, too.

My family had returned to Kabul after the Taliban, and in 2002, society was so much more conservative there than in Pakistan, where we had lived as refugees. Girls were looked down upon, and being one was made very difficult.

With short hair and in pants, I found that no one would look at me on the street, or harass me. I did not have to wear the scarf. I could look people in the eyes. I could speak to other boys, and adult men too. I did not have to make myself smaller by hunching over. I could walk fast. Or run, if I felt like it . . .

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