Arizona Daily Sun, March 9, 2003
War through students' eyes
By BECKY PALLACK, Sun Staff Reporter
Under a full-body veil with a tiny mesh patch to see through, Maggie McKever sat sweating in her seat in geography class after lunch. Inside a burqa, the shroud women were once forced to wear in Afghanistan, it's so hot you can't think.
"Women in Afghanistan, who have to wear the burqa, they have it really hard. And they basically have no rights," Maggie said.
The blonde-haired, blue-eyed seventh-grader at Northland Preparatory Academy wore a burqa for a day at school to experience a small amount of the challenge of life under a veil that Afghan women live every day. It's part of her project to study rights of women in Asia in her social studies class.
She got the idea from reading "Zoya's Story: An Afghan Woman's Struggle for Freedom."
"This book is about a girl named Zoya and how her parents were killed for what they believed," Maggie said. "I remember I cried several times while reading it."
Zoya, 23, joined the resistance against the Taliban after her parents were murdered by Muslim fundamentalists. She fled Kabul to Pakistan, where she organized literacy classes for girls and secretly filmed a public cutting of hands in Kabul through the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan, women can't work and can't be seen without wearing the stifling burqa and being accompanied by a close male relative. If they break the strict rules, they can be whipped or stoned.
Maggie got RAWA's support in her burqa-for-a-day project.
In a small way, "I learned how much these women in Afghanistan had to go through," Maggie said. "I could hardly see. It was hard to walk, hard to breathe. When I took it off after school, it was like everything was in Technicolor."
She got tangled getting into a car, had to eat lunch under the fabric, and couldn't show any emotions to friends. Some of her friends said talking to her was like talking to a wall.
"This one kid asked if I was Muslim or not," she said. Most of her peers were surprised, but supportive of her experiment.
Now, she feels a calling to help the women revolutionaries in Afghanistan. She's planning to ask school officials for a "free dress day" at school, in which students pay $1 to RAWA to wear anything they want at school for one day.
And she's thinking twice about the war against terrorism.
"I think we should try to work it out peacefully. A lot of these people are just innocent bystanders. The women are, anyway," Maggie said.
More information about RAWA is available online through the group's in-depth Web site at www.rawa.org. Donations to support RAWA may be sent to the Afghan Women's Mission, 2460 N. Lake Ave. PMB 207, Altadena, CA 91001.
Reporter Becky Pallack can be reached at 556-2261 or firstname.lastname@example.org