Afghanistan defamiliarised

Book>> Minorities • Afghanistan

 
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

Underground converts to Christianity, shadowy male cross-dressers, and gay bloggers are not usually associated with Afghanistan. That unknown side of Afghanistan is the topic of a new book, Afghan Rumour Bazaar: Secret Sub-Cultures, Hidden Worlds, and the Everyday Life of the Absurd, by Nushin Arbabzadah, an Afghan-born writer living in the US.

imageArbabzadah, a lecturer at the University of California, Los Angeles, was frustrated by the Western media’s often one-dimensional coverage of Afghanistan. Her book attempts to go beyond bombs and burqas to provide readers with new perspectives on a country many mistakenly assume to know.

Among her subjects are Afghanistan’s underground gay community and the practice of bacha posh—literally “dressed like a boy” in Dari. It is the old tradition of disguising young girls as boys. Some families without a son—a sign of prestige and respectability in Afghanistan—pretend a daughter is a son.

These girls have their hair cropped and are given male names. They assume all the responsibilities and freedoms that come with being a male. The practice continues until the child reaches puberty, when she must revert to her real gender.

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