August 19th, 2009
10:22 PM ET

Afghanistan's untold story: Stability, tourists, miniskirts

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/08/19/afghan.untold/1960.jpg caption="As recently as the 1970s, Afghan women could be seen wearing miniskirts in Kabul"]

John Blake

Zieba Shorish-Shamley's Afghanistan doesn't exist anymore.

The tea and fresh fruit her Muslim family shared over laughter with their Jewish friends at home. The female lawmakers who spoke out in Afghanistan's parliament. The tourists who were so enchanted by Kabul, the country's cosmopolitan capital, they called it the "Paris of Central Asia."

When the Afghan native recently returned home, all of those childhood memories seemed like a mirage. What she saw instead was what many Americans now associate with Afghanistan: destruction.

"When I got off the plane, I cried my eyes out," she said. "Most of Kabul was destroyed."

Shorish-Shamley's memories represent a side of Afghanistan that's easily overlooked. As Afghans prepare to pick a president in their national election Thursday, much of the media has focused on pre-election violence. Afghanistan has often been portrayed as a barbaric country where warfare has been a way of life for centuries.

But not long ago, Afghanistan was something else: a politically stable, religiously moderate government that recognized women's rights, Afghan natives and scholars say.

Elizabeth Gould, co-author of "Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story," says a U.S. diplomat visiting Afghanistan in the early 1970s said its citizens were so passionate about democracy that he saw them debate their constitutional rights in the streets.

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Filed under: Afghanistan
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Monica Montany

    Correction: the US BACKED military coup overthrew the monarchy... remember? Does this ring any bells – John Perkins, Economic Hitman?

    August 19, 2009 at 8:32 pm |
  2. Annie Kate

    Sounds like a different world. Kabul of the past sounded wonderful – full of spirit, youth, creative, and hopeful. Maybe if that generation of young people return and work toward getting that back along with the constitutional freedoms that were being worked into society, Afghanistan may have a chance at a peaceful, satisfying existence.

    August 19, 2009 at 6:45 pm |