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Revisited

Afghanistan: In Kabul with MP and feminist Shinkai Karokhail

As part of our "Revisited" series of special reports, our reporters went to Kabul in Afghanistan. There, they met an exceptional woman, the MP and feminist Shinkai Karokhail.

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For this report from Kabul, we chose to follow one of the few women to have succeeded in a man’s world: the feminist and MP Shinkai Karokhail. She is a woman of astounding courage.

Karokhail had to battle the prejudices of Afghan society to get where she is today, namely that women should not hold public office. She also had to battle opposition and resistance from her own family and members of her ethnic group. Shinkai is a Pashtun, the main ethnic group in Afghanistan, which both President Hamid Karzai and the Taliban movement belong to.

We followed Shinkai Karokhail for several days: from a finance committee meeting where she is investigating the country’s biggest ever corruption scandal, involving President Karzai’s brother… to a Shura, a council of elders, where she is the only woman in the midst of two dozen men.

Wherever she goes, Shinkai does not hold back. And that is the most astounding thing about her. Every day, the lawmaker risks her life to help her fellow citizens and promote women’s rights. As a result, she never goes anywhere without her bodyguard.

In Afghanistan, the former warlords still have private militias at their service. The Taliban threaten any woman who dares to defy their rules. Out of fear of reprisals, very few Afghan men dare to say out loud what Shinkai states openly to the media.

Through her story, we also aim to show the tragedy of Kabul: a city that went from immense hope to crushing disappointment.

Shinkai returned to Kabul in 2002 like thousands of other Afghans of her generation, keen to help rebuild their nation. Like her, this returning educated elite believed in the democracy and gender equality extolled by the international community after the fall of the Taliban.

Today, twelve years on, the same elite are queuing up at foreign embassies for visas to leave Afghanistan.

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