Afghan actress hounded, given death threats, and living in exile, squalor, and seclusion after being photographed without a veil (in Korea)

This is a sad story. The well known Afghan actress Marina Golbahari, who became famous for her role in the movie Osama, went to a film festival in South Korea, where she was photographed without her veil. Here’s one of those photos:

To those of her countrymen, and other Muslims, who feel that Muslim women should be veiled constantly, no matter where they are, this was an unconscionable act of religious defiance. The expected consequences followed. (Remember, this is all about her failure to wear a piece of cloth on her head!)

A picture of Golbahari, head uncovered, at the Busan festival in South Korea drew the ire of conservatives. She was branded a prostitute on social media, adding to the family’s shame.

The imam in her local village of Kapisa announced that she should not return, which Azizi said translates as: “She must die.”

Soon after, a bomb was thrown into their garden in Kabul but failed to explode. Telephone threats started to pour in, and the couple were forced to move from house to house.

In mid-November, they flew to Nantes in western France where Golbahari was appearing in a festival.

But their families, who had also received death threats, told them they had to stay away.

. . . “It’s very important that no-one recognises Marina,” said Azizi, who locks his wife in the room every time he leaves to make sure no one gets to her and carries out the death sentence passed by conservative imams a world away.

To avoid detection, Golbahari remains tightly veiled in public — a cruel twist in the tale, given the way their nightmare began.

“When you are an actor or actress in Afghanistan, or part of a film, you are accused of being an infidel, you are always in danger,” said Siddiq Barmak, the director of “Osama”, who also became a refugee in France a year ago.

. . . Back in her dank room, Golbahari sees little hope.

“Before, I dreamed of the future,” she said. “Now I think only of the past.”

Like many women in the Middle East, Golbahari’s wearing of the hijab was clearly not a choice. If it was, she would have worn it when she left her country. If hijab was voluntary, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia would not need morality police to enforce “proper” coverage of women. If hijab was voluntary, why did women in Iran and Afghanistan wear it en masse only when Islamic law came into force, or, as in the case of Egypt, when Islam became more powerful? If hijab was voluntary, why do sites like My Stealthy Freedom (note the word “Freedom”) feature Muslim women taking off their headscarves and reveling in their uncloaked hair?

The fact is that although veiling oneself may be seen as a “choice” in some countries, as in the U.S.—and we should ponder how much of a “choice” it really is here given social pressure to veil and the covering of girls that often begins when they are five or six years old—it is most certainly not voluntary in other places: places where the hijab is only one of many ways that women are oppressed.  Those who say their clothing is a matter of choice should fight for the rights of women everywhere to have that same choice.

h/t: Orli


  1. Zado
    Posted May 10, 2016 at 12:07 pm | Permalink


  2. Sarr
    Posted May 10, 2016 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Disgusting. Horrible that this ordeal has only lead to her being forced to be covered, out of fear for her own life.

  3. Dave
    Posted May 10, 2016 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Surely western colonialism must be to blame somehow?

    • Posted May 10, 2016 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      For sure. What’s more, it’s gross and racist to criticize forced veiling.

  4. Scott Draper
    Posted May 10, 2016 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Spelling: “seculsion ” => “seclusion”

  5. Jesus
    Posted May 10, 2016 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Who was fighting for women rights when the USA was founding the “Freedom” Fighters against the Afghan Communist goverment? If you would have denounced that attack on women’s rights then we would not have that problem now. That’s why the struggle for women rights is a little harder when you have to do it with the hipocrites of yesterday who may find a reason to dump their rights if some other thing has preference over their rights.

    • Randy Schenck
      Posted May 10, 2016 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

      Maybe a little far fetched I think. The U.S. or at least Wilson, the congressman from Texas, was getting funding for the fight against the communist because they were always the enemy. The U.S. interest was that the communist lose. We have actively spent the last 15 years in Afghanistan for reasons most of us have forgotten. Anyway, laying the treatment of women in Afghanistan on the U.S. is a bridge too far for me.

    • darrelle
      Posted May 10, 2016 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      “If you would have denounced that attack on women’s rights then we would not have that problem now.

      Though I understand and even agree with the basic sentiment that is likely the inspiration for this comment, the comment is illogical, naive and assumes things about the OP and others here that are not in evidence and is very likely to be considered insulting.

      Illogical – Assuming that people denouncing the government’s actions in Afghanistan could have prevented (much of it would have been after the fact) those actions and that that in turn would prevent cultural / religious inspired misogyny and abuse of woman in Afghanistan and or other Islamic societies.

      Naive – See illogical above. It would be nice if reality worked that way, but even a cursory glance at history shows otherwise.

      Insulting – Assuming that the OP and whoever else you might be addressing would not have denounced the actions you are claiming they did not given the understanding that you assume was evident. It might be prudent to ask first.

    • Zado
      Posted May 10, 2016 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

      And thus it fell to ol’ W to correct the deficient policies of his predecessors towards that benighted country.

      As you so eloquently point out, history is not without its ironies.

    • Alpha Neil
      Posted May 10, 2016 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

      So we shouldn’t fight for women’s rights now because they weren’t fought for in the past? Why didn’t you stand up against Genghis Khan when his solders were abusing women in Afghanistan? Time to dump the “holier than thou” attitude Jesus.

  6. Kevin
    Posted May 10, 2016 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    If Marina has to wear a hijab, then Ben Affleck has to wear a Batman suit for the rest of his life. Only fair for actors to stand up for one another.

    • GBJames
      Posted May 10, 2016 at 3:46 pm | Permalink


    • Filippo
      Posted May 10, 2016 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

      Does anyone know if Mr. Affleck’s position on the hijab is on record?

    • somer
      Posted May 11, 2016 at 4:11 am | Permalink


  7. Denis Westphalen
    Posted May 10, 2016 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    I will never forget my flights from Frankfurt to Kuwait City (back when I was leaving in the Middle East) when 30 min before arrival many ladies had to go to the washroom to put on their clothes “of choice”. Sometimes from mini-skirts to full cover.

  8. keith cook±
    Posted May 10, 2016 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    Afghanistan is truely a country for old men, grumpy fucks who do not know their arse from a hole in the ground. No veil and smiling as in happy must make these jerks seeth in religious hate if not jelousy. I commend Ms Golbarhari and for the courage I fear she is going to need. Her family may need support as well and that must be a worry.

  9. steve
    Posted May 11, 2016 at 4:54 am | Permalink

    Of course the problem is that, because she is so beautiful (and she is) the men will be staring at her and not the cloth covered heads of their wives. They should learn to control themselves. Or better yet, learn to appreciate beauty in whatever form. Or still better, mind their own business.

  10. Mike
    Posted May 13, 2016 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    I’ve run out of expletives .

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