KABUL, Afghanistan — A new women-only Internet cafe in Afghanistan’s capital is the first of its kind in this country.
Staffed entirely by women, it’s a place for women to connect to the world in a country where they don’t often enjoy the freedom to do what they please online away from the watchful eyes of their fathers, husbands or brothers.
The Young Afghan Women for Change — a local group of women activists — inaugurated the Sahar Gul Internet Cafe last week. The group wants the cafe to become a place for women in Kabul to use the Internet, away from the prying eyes of others — especially from men.
“Based on a survey we did in Kabul, we found out that women were harassed in regular cafés and were uncomfortable sitting beside men for an hour-long (Internet browsing session),” says Zafar Salehi, a YAWC member.
The café is named after Sahar Gul, who was kept in solitary confinement and tortured by her husband for months. Her tragic case drew a great deal of international attention.
Afghans living in the country joined expatriates in Europe and the U.S. in raising money to help the Sahar Gul Internet Café open its doors. Additionally, a private company donated 15 laptops, and a telecommunications firm is providing the café with a free year-long Internet connection.
The YAWC will continue to ask women around Afghanistan about their Internet privacy concerns. If they find another area that might be in need of a women-only Internet cafe, they’ll build another just like the Sahar Gul shop.
“In every province where women use the Internet, they have the same problem,” says Salehi. “We can hopefully expand this initiative to other places.”