“Afghanes”, the film by journalist Solene Chalvon-Fioriti, broadcast tonight on France 5, is unlike any other. Strong testimonies on a condition of mental and physical confinement of women that should no longer exist in society.

Solene Chalvon-Fioriti visited Afghan families where she met women who told her about their fate. (ELEPHANT DOC)

It is indeed a war that has been declared against women in Afghanistan. Afghanes, the film by journalist Solene Chalvon-Fioriti, brings together strong testimonies. Rarely in Afghan history has the situation been as dramatic as today, with feminicides or women stoned to death by court order. Their only crime is wanting to live.

One of the strong phrases uttered by Solene Chalvon-Fioriti at the start of her film – “The Taliban’s priority target is the bodies of Afghan women” – is not a gender effect. It describes a reality on the ground. The one carried by the reverse reporting of ideas made a little too quickly. And we also hear in the film this sermon in a microphone: “Women discovered (implied without burka) look like candy without packaging”.

Solene Chalvon-Fioriti, the director of the film “Afghanes”. (Kiana Hayeri)

Repression and confinement

Since the Taliban returned to power in 2021, the pressure is growing day by day. The list of restrictions is growing. In addition to the fact that we must not see their faces or hear their voices, they must obey the religious police, cannot claim employment in the public service, cannot frequent parks or public baths which nevertheless constitute a means of hygiene. They are also not allowed to enter universities, work in NGOs, and drive cars are prohibited.

If some of them began to demonstrate, a bit like in Iran, violent repression by blood and murders got the better of the processions which frayed over the months. The women stay at home. But in this confinement, mental health wavers. There is in Solene Chalvon-Fioriti’s film this young woman who cries, and cannot stop crying while putting words to her tears: “Being a woman is not a sin. I worked hard to hope for a good life but the eyes on us do not give us any value. I have no right to anything. Why were we created?

This chilling question is echoed in a horrifying scene in the film: the births at the maternity ward. The cries of joy when it’s a boy, a whole different atmosphere when it’s a girl. Until this mother-in-law who speaks to this baby girl who has just been born a few minutes ago: “You are not ashamed to do this to your mother. You are wrinkled, slimy, ugly” and to call her then “little ugliness”. A midwife testifies, reports severe cases of malnutrition. When the infant is a girl and she is abandoned by her mother, the baby feels it immediately and the impact on her development affects feeding. There is a form of despair in the mother who discredits her child.

Women in a Kabul market. Since the return to power of the Taliban, women who still dare to go out do so wearing a burqa or a full veil. (MAXPPP)

Erasing the woman from society

The Taliban’s project to erase women from Afghan society is not a fantasy. Delete is the right word. They must not exist. It is an open war against women. Against girls who will not go to school and will not be educated. Sold at puberty, locked up and hidden away. It is beyond a question of women’s rights, it is the erasure of a condition. And let’s not talk about violence in the privacy of homes, out of sight.

For this reason, Solene Chalvon-Fioriti – after having published La femme qui s’awakened with Flammarion, where she transcribed the words of the Afghan women – wanted this film: so that we could hear their voices, so that we could see their faces not covered, not blurred. The journalist, after having lived in Afghanistan for ten years, did not see her press title renewed; she had to leave the country. Journalists struggle to work in Kabul. Proof of this is the case of Mortaza Behboudi, a man who talks about women and the country he loves, a Franco-Afghan journalist wrongly accused of espionage and who has been in prison for more than two months. This brilliant journalist we were talking about 15 days ago in this column.