In this sixth feature in our Oral Stories series, AWWP writers went into the streets of Afghanistan’s major cities to gather the stories of poor and illiterate Afghan women during this holy month of Ramadan, which began on June 27th. During the long summer days—fasting without food or water—our writers interviewed dozens of women selling hats and trinkets or working as house cleaners or school sweepers about what happens in their lives at Iftar—when the sun goes down and it is time to break the daily fast.

For the wealthy, Iftar is a joyous time of day with dates and nuts and other treats that give way to a large meal after sundown. As Zohra N., our young interviewer in Kabul explains it: “It’s the most amazing moment. Taxi drivers start hurrying to drop customers and get home. Private cars are speeding up. Their love for Islam is at its peak.”

She explains: “The rich people buy good food and drinks. They break their fast with delicious drinks, simple pakoda and bolani, prayer, and then delicious foods like chicken and kebabs. They offer a lot of food to the poor to gather some blessings of forgiveness from Allah.”

But Iftar may not be joyous for the poor. The dozens of women interviewed by our writers provide more grim accounts of their Ramadan in 2014, a month of political uncertainty with the presidential elections in dispute and the direction of a future government unclear. Sayara, another student writer in Kabul, says food prices are all high in Kabul because of the uncertainty this Ramadan. Poor people don’t have $1 for a package of dates.

In Three Women in Kabul, meet Rogol, a 42-year-old Kabuli widow with six children who cleans schools to earn money and says: “Having a good Iftar or Suhari is only a wish for me and my family. We want peace and stability in our country, but our biggest need in Ramadan is getting food.”

Hear Nasrin, a mother of six in Balkh province in northern Afghanistan in her story Help Me with a Box of Oil: “Our biggest challenge during Ramadan is the rotten melons we eat for Suhari because only these are cheap enough to buy. We are poor. Each day I walk in the street looking for work. I wash people’s clothes. My message for those who hear my voice is to help me with a box of cooking oil, and a bag of rice and flour. It’s enough. There is no help for the poor people.”

And Rahima, in No Dates for Iftar: “I am 40 years old and my biggest challenge during Ramadan is not fasting, but it is after fasting ends and we open our napkin and we don’t have anything to eat, not even a date.”

The stories were recorded, transcribed and translated into English and edited for clarity. 

Finally, for a very different perspective, read Long Days of Ramadan by Kabul writer Sayara: “In the long sunny days of summer, Almighty Allah gives us strength. We get up around 2:00 in the nighttime to eat before 3:00 and when the dawn comes we stop eating and offer prayers and recite the Holy Quran.”

To read more, click on the links below.

Susan Postlewaite, Editing Director

Founded in 2009, AWWP is staffed by dozens of volunteers and financially sponsored by donors.

Graphics by Blatman Design.