Terrifying plight of Afghan actress
“Afghan actress Parwin Mushthal's passion for her job has exacted a heavy toll - resulting in the murder of her husband and forcing her to live in hiding with her two children.”
Mushtal first began acting in highschool, and now has been in more than 20 theatre productions, dozens of films, and has regular television appearances. Her face is well known in Afganistan, but in this country, such popularity can be dangerous. In fact, Mushtal hid her acting career from her husband’s family, and when they came to visit, made sure the television was used only to watch movies.
In a country where the influence of the Taleban is growing stronger, acting is often linked with immorality. Women who act are often accused of prostitution, threatened, and even abused. Mushtal received such threats, and often arrived to work only to find people waiting at the entrance, blocking her path, and telling her she shouldn’t be working. She received threatening phone calls and was abused walking in the streets. People began to recognize her, and once, walking home with her young son, a stranger on a bike violently punched her in the back as he passed. She fell to the ground and injured her leg so badly that she still has pain months later. She thought perhaps the abuse was directed at her due to her clothing, so she began dressing more modestly and began wearing a scarf over her head. It wasn’t until her husband began receiving phone calls asking why he allowed his wife to act that she realized what the problem was. By then, it was too late.
One night in December a man repeatedly called her husband, telling him to come out of the house. He refused. The next night he began calling again, and eventually her husband agreed to meet him. Mushtal became concerned when he didn’t return after dark, and at eight o’clock heard shooting. She was afraid the man would come into the house next, so she locked the door and waited all night. In the morning police found her husband’s body, shot numerous times.
Now Parwin Pashtal is in hiding, wearing a full-length burka so she can't be recognized. She lives in constant fear that someone will recognize her and come after her or her two children. Pashtal’s story is not an anomaly in Afganistan. The Taleban is gaining strength in many cities, and is openly critical of women in the workplace. The result is situations like Pashtal’s, where women are threatened, abused, and even forced into hiding.
I wish this story could end on a happier note, but it can't. I wish I could DO something. Thus far, all I am doing is writing notes reaching very, VERY few people. Spreading information is one thing, but I don't feel like I'm actually helping improve anything. I want to help things CHANGE.