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Leading a man’s life, a woman survived in Taliban’s Afghanistan

Nadia Ghulam, a writer who disguised as a man to survive in Afghanistan under Taliban's rule

Survival can make a person go to any length. A case in point is that of Nadia Ghulam, who for 10 years dressed like a man to go to work and support her family.

With women being again targeted in Afghanistan with the takeover by Taliban in that country, her story is drawing attention worldwide.

Ghulam is an Afghan refugee, who has turned a writer and at present lives in Spain’s Catalonia. During the previous rule of Taliban 20 years ago, she had to disguise herself as a man, in order to escape the torture by the extremist group. She too, like hundreds and thousands of Afghan women, suffered miserably during Taliban’s rule.

Ghulam was born in 1985, and was forced to dress and behave like a man for 10 long years to be able to work in order to support her family. When the Taliban took over Afghanistan, she was denied the right to work or study. At a very young age of eight, she was witness to her home being bombed and her brother dying.

Forced by circumstances she took it upon herself to disguise like a boy. It was not easy and fraught with danger at every step. Several times she missed being caught thanks to her good luck. She carried on for 10 years during which dressing, talking and doing things which boys do, made her sometimes forget that she was a woman.

Fifteen years ago, with the help of a non-governmental organisation, she left the country for treatment of wounds caused by a bomb. Unfortunately, her family is still in Afghanistan.

Once she settled down in Catalonia, she decided to reveal her story to the world so that they would become aware of what all transpired under Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan. Collaborating with Agnes Rotger, a journalist, she wrote a novel, titled “The Secret Of My Turban”.

In 2010, the book which has been critically acclaimed won the prestigious prize Prudenci Bertrana and became popular.

For years Ghulam had been sounding the warning that the Taliban had never left Afghanistan and that the United States “sold the film” of peace which was a “lie”.

Critical of the US, the European Union and other international forces who have been major players in Afghanistan for years, Ghulam said their role was "more than a betrayal" since they have armed the population, supported Governments who have been corrupt and are now leaving the country.

Working closely with the organisation Bridges for Peace Association from Badalona, Ghulam now helps 35 girls in Afghanistan to go to school and study.