KABUL — In a hidden shelter on the edge of the Afghan capital, a dozen girls and women crouched on thin cushions one recent afternoon, their faces drawn with fatigue and fear. Some had been found wandering the streets; others had travelled long distances in flight from abusive families, forced marriages or unhappy lives.
Raya, 18, a pretty girl with green eyes, said that when her parents insisted she quit school and marry a man they had chosen, she ran away instead. “Now we are living in a democracy, so we should have the right to choose,” she said. Shafia, 40, a hospital worker in an embroidered dress, told of being confined by her in-laws for 20 years. Last month, she fled. “I am an educated woman, and they wouldn’t even let me out to visit my parents,” she said. Twelve years after the overthrow of the Taliban, many Afghan women are caught in a confusing time warp. They are absorbing new ideas about freedom and rights through the Internet and attending school and college in record numbers. They are talking with men on cellphones and watching bedroom soap operas from India and Turkey.