ne of the longest wars of our generation took an unexpected turn last month. The Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan accepted the government’s call for a three-day ceasefire during the Islamic festival of Eid al-Fitr.
For the first time in years, Taliban fighters – known for their brutality on the frontline of the spiralling conflict – entered the capital, Kabul, and other urban centres in Afghanistan and socialised with the locals.
They marched through the streets of Kabul with their flags, hugging civilians, offering Eid prayers alongside the security forces, and even enjoying a scoop of the city’s best ice creams. Many civilians went up to the fighters, welcoming them, engaging in conversation about peace and taking selfies. Missing from most of these images of brotherhood and bonhomie were the Afghan women who have been among the worst victims of past Taliban atrocities.
Amid the swirl of excitement, hope and fear, however, a few women did make their presence felt during the ceasefire celebrations. Kabul, Baghlan and Jalalabad were among several cities where a handful of women not only joined the predominantly male celebrations, but also took selfies with the Taliban fighters.
The resulting photos, which show conservative, extremist fighters alongside determined and progressive Afghan women, went viral on social media.
One picture, taken by the Afghan photojournalist Farzana Wahidy, resonated especially profoundly with women and men alike. In it, Wahidy is seen with a few Taliban fighters. Her eyes are defined with green eyeliner, and a headscarf of similar colour lightly covers her fringe. It is a look that would earn her the ire of the Taliban were they in control. Instead, the fighters stand next to her smiling meekly in a photo that has become a symbol of resistance.
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