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In Kabul's Liberating Cafes, "Women Make the Culture Here, Not Men"



KABUL, Afghanistan – On some days, life as a young woman in Kabul can feel suffocating for Hadis Lessani Delijam, a 17-year-old high school senior.

Once, a man on the street has been here for here makeup and Western clothes; they are shameful, he bellowed. A middle-aged woman cursed here for strolling and chatting with a young man.

Delijam said.

For solace, Ms. Delijam retreats to a unique venue – the humble coffee shop.

"This is the only place where I can relax and feel free, even if it's only for a few hours," Ms.

Trendy new cafes have jumped up across Kabul in the past three years, evolving into emblems of women's progress.

The cafes are sanctuaries for an Islamic culture that dictates how they should dress, have public and interact with men. Those traditions endure 18 years after the top of the Taliban, who banned girls' education, confined women to their homes and forced to wear burqas in public.

"When we come to cafes, we feel liberated," she added. “No one forces us to put on our head scarves.” Many young women in Kabul's emerging cafe society were infants under the Taliban rule. Ms. Delijam had not been born yet. They have come to the post-Taliban struggle by many young Afghans to break free of the harsh contours of a patriarchal society.

The women have grown up with cellphones, social media and the right to express themselves freely. They cannot imagine returning to the puritanical dictates of the Taliban, who sometimes stoned women to death on suspicion of adultery – and still in areas they control

media campaign, #myredline, that implements women to stand up for their rights. Her Facebook page is studded with photos of herself inside coffee shops, symbols of her own red line.

"Going to a cafe and talking with friends brings me great happiness," Ms. In front of said she sat inside a Kabul coffee shop. "I refuse to sacrifice it."

But those freedoms could disappear if the peace talks bring the Taliban back into government, she said.

In 2014, the Taliban launched a series of attacks against cafes and restaurants in Kabul, including a suicide bombing and gunfire that killed 21 customers at the popular Taverna du Liban cafe, where alcohol was served, and Afghan men and women among Westerners.

Afterward, the government forced a host of cafes and guesthouses to shut down for fear they would draw more violence. 19659008] For the next two years, much of westernized social life in Kabul moved to private homes. But in 2016, new coffee shops opened to open, catering to young women and men to mingle in public again.

Still, except for urban outposts like Kabul, Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif, there are few cafes in Afghanistan where women can mingle with men. Most restaurants reserve their main rooms for men and set aside "family" sections for women and children.

That is why the Kabul cafes are so treasured by Afghan women, who seek kindred souls there. as powerful as religion, ”said Fereshta Kazemi, an Afghan-American actress and executive executive who often frequented Kabul coffee shops.

" The need to connect, to share and love, to make eye contact, is instinctual, "she said

After the Taliban fell in 2001, attending schools and universities, working institutes in private and government jobs, and living alone or with friends in apartments, fell into instincts. The Afghan Constitution reserves 68 out of 250 seats for women, at least two women from each of 34 provinces.

Mina Rezaee, 30, who opened the simple coffee shop in Kabul a year

"Women make the culture here, not men," she said.