Medic-turned-film-maker reveals female experience

April 23, 2004

Mary Ayubi was one of the first students to be accepted by the Kabul Medical Institute. It was renovated in 2002 under a USAid-funded project by the Coalition Joint Civil-Military Operations Task Force in Afghanistan, after the defeat of the Taliban and the end of the ban on the education of females, writes Christine Aziz.

Ms Ayubi, 26, had dreamt of becoming a doctor since she was a child. Her father, an English teacher, was killed in the fighting in l990, and her 14-year-old brother was never seen again after his capture by the mujaheddin. After the family home was destroyed, she lived in Kabul for five years under the Taliban's oppression, until their departure in 2001.

But when she discovered that to pass her first-year exams she would have to offer her lecturers either sexual favours or money, she left the course.

"Leaving the faculty was the most difficult decision of my life. When I complained to the institute authorities, I was made to feel bad. Women are meant to stay quiet. I knew if I stayed, the institute would fail me even if I did well."

Instead, Ms Ayubi became a film-maker. Under the auspices of a French-funded media and culture project in Kabul, she made Shadows , a film about the situation of women in Afghanistan and her experience at the medical institute.

But Kabul television has refused to broadcast what is probably one of the first documentaries made by an Afghan woman in 25 years. "Our audiences are not ready for a film like this at the moment," a spokesperson said.

The Ministry of Education, however, has taken notice. It said that the medical institute would be brought under Kabul University's administration so it could be monitored in future.

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