It’s 4:00 A.M., and Kabul is dark and still. Shabana Noori wills herself out of bed to drink a cup of hot tea. The 22-year-old news anchor and fledgling star of ZAN TV has to get to work by 6:00 for her Friday-morning shift. ZAN, whose name means “woman” in Dari, is the first and only TV station in Afghanistan for women, made up of an all-female team of journalists, most of them in their early twenties. Launched in the Afghan capital in May, the station sheds light on everything from cosmetics (once banned under the Taliban) to women in sports (also previously banned) to domestic violence (tragically still commonplace). Until now there has never been a show—let alone an entire station—focused on women’s issues. The fact that the women of ZAN are openly talking about them on national television is revolutionary.
Sleepy-eyed, Noori isn’t thinking about how she’s a role model; she’s focused on her daily morning dilemma: what to wear. Normally she’d choose a formfitting outfit in shocking greens, deep reds, intense blues. But today Noori’s in mourning; her aunt has recently died. She picks a dark ensemble—a long black skirt, a black headscarf, a black choker necklace, and a navy T-shirt. Still, she shows her rebelliousness. Her tee reads, “What in the funk do you see” in white block lettering, and her nails are painted glittery gold.
By 5:00 she’s running late. Grabbing her purse and an apple, Noori heads outside, shimmies into a pair of black stilettos on the front porch, and proceeds to gracefully navigate the rough road outside—the cracked pavement, the open sewer. Her father, Ghulam Mohammad, waves goodbye, proud of his daughter, the youngest of his five children, and the career she’s built for herself that helps support her family.
“I want her to achieve her goals,” he says. “I want her to be a tool for the truth.”
Ghulam is illiterate, as is his wife, Khanum Gul. But they believe their daughter—their outspoken, fearless, beautiful daughter—is going to be someone.
If she’s not killed first.
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