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Veteran Tajik Feminist

Musharrafa Qasimova is a living history of Tajikistan in the last nine decades. Born just after the Russian Revolution, she has lived through the turbulent years of the Soviet era, experienced the trauma of the execution of her father by firing squad, was an actress in the theatre and cinema, and has always been a dedicated advocate of women’s emancipation.

She was brought up in an intellectual family in which the women had discarded the ‘faranji’, the traditional veil, and her aunts played an active role in educating illiterate women. This was in line with the Soviet policy in Central Asia, namely bringing women out of their homes and giving them an active role in the economy.

The Soviet government’s economic plans in this mainly agricultural region were not feasible without the participation of women, particularly during the war with Germany. This led to the implementation of the dual programme of educating women and removing their veils.

Many women paid a high price for this. Scores of them were stoned to death by hard line fanatics for going to school or discarding their veils. Some, like the Qasimova family, were shunned by neighbours and acquaintances. Musharrafa Qasimova has experienced all these sacrifices at first hand, though she is still a staunch believer in the benefits of the Soviet policy for Central Asian women. Therefore it is not surprising if she is apprehensive about the gradual return of the hejab for the women of Tajikistan.

In this multimedia report, she tells us her fascinating life story whilst letting us browse through her delightful collection of vintage family photographs.     

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