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.