on a hill overlooking kabul, with little access to electricity, more than one thousand women have made their own houses, brick by brick, from the land beneath them. they have created what is known by afghans as tapaye zanabad - “the hill that women built.”
widowed by the violence of the past 15 years, these women were left without the means to take care of their families, let alone a place to live. many were forced into prostitution and lived in constant fear of the taliban’s strict interpretations of sharia law.
the united nations development fund for women places the number of ‘war widows’ in afghanistan at more than two million. many are are uneducated, illiterate and lack basic job skills, and lead, as a consequence, secluded, poverty stricken lives. as one of the hill’s inhabitants put it, “it is better to be dead than be a widow in afghanistan.”
beginning in 2001, widows from all corners of afghanistan left the shadows of their harsh life for the rumor of a utopia in kabul made just for them. the abandoned government property they live on, once an outpost for the soviets, is now organized by the women in commune fashion.
aneesa (pictured above), with few relatives and no work opportunities for her as a woman, came to the hill after her husband, a soldier, was killed. “once you become a widow and live alone, people are strange toward you. they say a lot of bad things,” she said. “we feel more comfortable when we’re around other widows.”
but it was tough going at first, as police would tear down the homes and walls. but, she says, “i would rather have died than abandon this place.” with little help from the government or international donors, however, the hill can only offer mere refuge to these women.
Dream bedrooms. Dream spaces.
Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss” has been reproduced on a devastated building in Syria by artist Tammam Azzam.
“Each and everyone of us is both victim and thief whenever we identify not with our own bodies, not with our own humanity, not with our animality (we so often forget that we are animals, that we are primates), not with the landbases that support us, but rather with the very system that exploits…
Pessimism’s goal is not to depress us, but to edify us about our condition and to fortify us for the life that lies ahead. To build proper fortifications, one must have a proper sense of the enemy and his weapons. For the pessimists, it is fundamentally our time-bound condition that threatens us. But this presents a special problem since it is also our existence within time, and our consciousness of time, that makes possible many of the most excellent and glorious of human attributes, not least of which is the reason that allows us to philosophize at all. So pessimism must suggest a kind of fortification of the self against an enemy that is already inside the gates of the soul.
In such a situation, there can be no impregnable barrier that, once perfected, would obviate the need for further attention to the threat. Consequently, the pessimists, like ancient philosophers of the self, often suggest and describe a perpetual wrestling within one’s own psyche, as Jacob wrestled on the mountain-top, with a foe he could barely make out, in order to learn his own name. It is a struggle with the self that never ends, but can productively define us. And it is never the same, because, for everything we do, time flows out ahead of us, relentlessly changing ourselves and our circumstances. Pessimism is a philosophy of self-conduct; it suggests an approach to a universal problem that any individual will have to modify in the course of taking it up. We can even learn, as Jacob did, to find a blessing in such a struggle.