Why do husbands, fathers, brothers-in-law, even mothers-in-law brutalize the women in their families? Are these violent acts the consequence of a traditional society suddenly, after years of isolation and so much war, being hurled into the 21st century? The foundation of Pashtunwali is a man's honor, judged by three possessions—zar (gold), zamin (land), and zan (women). The principles on which the honorable life is built are melmastia (hospitality), nanawati (shelter or asylum), and badal (justice or revenge).- Elizabeth Rubin (Photographs by Lynsey Addario)
The greater a Pashtun man's hospitality, the more honor he accrues. If a stranger or an enemy turns up on his doorstep and asks for shelter, his honor depends on taking that person in. If any injury is done to a man's land, women, or gold, it is a matter of honor for him to exact revenge. A man without honor is a man without a shadow, without assets, without dignity.
But it is not generally acceptable for Pashtun women to extend hospitality or exact revenge. They are rarely agents. They're assets to be traded and fought over—until they can stand it no longer.
Everyone is familiar with Steve McCurry's iconic image - one of the few that you can that truly deserves it - of the Afghan woman from 1985. Sadly, not much has changed in a land that seems to be so stuck in time that hurtling it into the modern world seems just as cruel as treatment of women in that country.
I was amazed by how short and effective Rubin's. Clearly, it wasn't so much an essay accompanied by photographs, but more like a lens to focus the reader's attention on Addario's pictures that tell a lot more than a thousand words.