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The burqa theory of reporting Afghanistan

nelsonburka_540.jpgSoraya Sarhadd Nelson, a reporter with NPR, found out the only way to get to a story about the judiciary in Afghanistan was to don a burqa and head into Kunar province. Even then, things didn't go smoothly,

"Put on your burqa and don't speak English. They can't know you are American or we'll all be dead," Momand warned me as we left Kabul in his well traveled Toyota Corolla. (I speak Dari, one of Afghanistan's languages).

In Jalalabad, a fairly safe Afghan city near the Pakistani border, the plan quickly fell apart. The Afghan businessman, it turns out, had other things on his mind besides arranging my interview.

While Momand went to repair his car, the businessman took me to a tiny hotel room where I was to stay the night. The businessman told me Momand could not accompany us to the room because he'd gotten the room for his "wife."

Pashtun culture bars any man from being in the same room with a woman not closely related to him.

But the businessman would not leave. He kept asking me personal questions. He repeatedly told me to take off my burqa and sit next to him on the cushions on the floor. When he finally left the room to get some tea, I grabbed my cell phone and called my fixer in Kabul for help. He called Momand. link

Image by Roohullah Anwari for NPR