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(Photo: Asghar Noor Mohammad, Main photo: Alex Macbeth)
38: Lest we forget
5.03.2013  |  Diary
So far so good. Protesters maintain order as they cross Khost City on February 24, 2012. (Photos: Khoshnood)
37: Torn in directions
22.02.2013  |  Diary
Children stand beside Highway 1 in Maiwand District, behind them a billboard urging citizens to report signs of roadside bombs. (Photo: Nick Allen). Main photo: Dawn sky over the highway during author's recent journey to Kandahar. (Photo: Omaid)   
36: Foot down to Kandahar
28.01.2013  |  Diary
Picnic time: Afghan and Tajik colleagues unwind after the June workshop in Dushanbe. Main photo: The same participants wrestle with journalistic challenges of a shared border. (Photos: Nick Allen)
34: The year that was
31.12.2012  |  Diary
Kabul University saw protests in the past, but the Ashura clashes have shaken up students and the wider public. (Photo: Rouyee)
33: Campus Ashura fury
26.11.2012  |  Diary
31: Afghans writing back
24.10.2012  |  Diary
High voice, low trick: Phone flirtation is lucrative for a new breed of scammer. (Photos: Atal)
30: Phone capers
5.10.2012  |  Diary
Out they came: Protesters at the film 'Innocence of Muslims' gathered in Kabul peacefully at the weekend before violence erupted Monday. (Photos: Rouyee)
28: Film anger spills over
17.09.2012  |  Diary
Acknowledgements of 9/11 were more muted this year at this US campus in New York state. (Photo: Peikar)  
27: A dated date
11.09.2012  |  Diary
It is over a week into the holy month of Ramadan. Hundreds of women gather in rows in a saloon specially set up beside the Noor-ul-Houda Mosque in Kabul for them to perform their prayers.
In the other big saloon set up for men the imam of the mosque calls both groups to start their late evening prayers.
In the past, and notably under the Taliban regime, women performed their religious duties and responsibilities in their homes. After the collapse of Taliban rule and particularly over the past five or six years, women mainly in cities have gained the opportunity attend mosques and perform their prayers collectively. 
Kabul resident Yasameen decided at the start of Ramadan to perform all her Tra’aweh prayers – a prayer performed very late in the evening only during the holy month – at the mosque. “When I perform my prayers at the mosque, I can better concentrate and I can feel my complete presence before God,” she says, but speaking also of the social element: Coming here to pray offers her the chance to mx with many other women and girls, as compared to the often solitary tradition of worshipping at home. 
Again, it is only at larger urban mosques likeNoor-ul-Houda or Kabul’s newly inaugurated Abdul Rahman Mosque that this facility exists. But it has been embraced by women like Shakila, who is a regular here. “For the last three years I have performed most of my early and late evening prayers collectively at the mosque.”
There are hopes too that this process can evolve and turn into a nation-wide culture.
“Several days ago, President Hamid Karzai inaugurated Abdul Rahman Mosque which can be ranked as equal to Faysal Mosque in Islamabad,” sayd Hamida. “In this mosque, there is a specific place where hundreds of women can perform their prayers, which demonstrates that this culture is gradually evolving to the point where all women can perform their prayers at mosques.”
And according to the teachings of Islam is, the there is no stated limitation on women performing their daily prayers at the mosques, Hamida adds. But due to family issues, “housework, some cultural and tradition-based discrimination and some senseless traditions that some families strictly abide by,” many women still face obstacles worshipping in the public environment, says Hamida. Not to mention the difficulties of arranging child care to allow them the opportunity to get away, she adds.
Some women say they are allowed to offer prayers collectively but have to be accompanied by a male family member to the mosques.
Farzana occasionally goes out to perform her late evening prayer. “If my brother is home and goes to the mosque to perform his prayer, I will go with him. Otherwise, I perform my prayers at home, since I cannot go to the mosque by myself.”
Farzana’s brother accompanies back home after the prayer is over. His mission is completed once she is there.
Other women I met on this seventh night of Ramadan said the same, that lack of security hampered their wish to go out to pray as much as anything. Which may explain why 95 per cent of women still perform their daily prayers at home despite the possibilities offered by more and more mosques.
Samira, 34, says that her husband is strict and prefers her to lead her religious life at home. She still manages to  accompany him occasionally to the mosque, but it’s not something she advertizes: “People do not know that I go to the mosque to perform my daily prayers. They may say bad things about me.” 
But beyond the social aspect and liberation from the confines of the homes, the allocation of separate saloons for women at the mosques has presented other opportunities. 
For girls older than 12 or 13, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to receive religious instruction at mosques alongside boys of their age. Now, in some prayer saloons set up for women, girls can go at specific times to take lessons and learn the Holy Qur’an from female instructors.
Yalda is 19 and goes to the Noor-ul-Houda Mosque every morning to study the Holy Qur’an. She regards herself as extremely fortunate to enjoy such an opportunity without any disturbance or fear.
“I am very happy. Here, all of my instructors are women. Many girls come here early mornings to learn the Holy Qur’an. May God help Afghan women have this opportunity across Afghanistan!”
Traditionally women performed prayers at home, but they are now increasingly turning to mosques that allocate special areas for female worshippers. (Photos: Ihsan)
25: Birth of new tradition
2.08.2012  |  Diary
Dubai's bright lights, entertainments and safe investment opportunities are a magnet for wealthy Afghans. (Photos: Atal)
23: Postcard from Dubai
15.05.2012  |  Diary
A Kabul beauty parlour beckons to the feminine side (Photos; Ihsan)
22: The wardrobe barometer
12.01.2012  |  Diary
Committee member delegates at the Loya Jirga. (Photo: Ihsan)
20: Covering the Loya Jirga
21.11.2011  |  Diary
19: Annotation of a death
13.11.2011  |  Diary
18: Appreciated once a year
31.10.2011  |  Diary
17: Luck of the Hajj draw?
27.10.2011  |  Diary
15: Only featured here
26.09.2011  |  Diary
12: On Kabul's roads
19.05.2011  |  Diary
In Kabul's glitzy wedding halls, grooms change clothes several times in a wedding night. (Photos: Basir Seerat)
11: The love-match
3.05.2011  |  Diary
A mullah writing a taweez in Mazar-e Sharif. (Photos: Mobasher)
10: How to marry a fortune
25.04.2011  |  Diary
Photos: P.J. Tobia
09: Number 39
16.02.2011  |  Diary