Watch: Afghanistan's hill of widows live in a world apart

Today it is known as Afghanistan's 'hill of widows', home to a cluster of women who have eeked out independence in a society that shuns and condemns them as immoral.

AFP June 23, 2017 18:10:38 IST

The first women settled on this stony slope outside Kabul in the 1990s hoping to escape the stigma those like them endure.

Today it is known as Afghanistan's 'hill of widows', home to a cluster of women who have eeked out independence in a society that shuns and condemns them as immoral.

The rocky summit 15 kilometres south-east of the capital has gradually been swallowed by the city, becoming a distant Kabul suburb. But for its residents, it remains "Zanabad", the city of women.

The matriarch of Zanabad, Bibi ul-Zuqia, known as "Bibikoh", died in 2016. Her eldest daughter, 38-year-old Anissa Azimi, has a husband — but in a rare step for married women in conservative Afghanistan, has taken up the matriarchal torch.

Their house is one of the first when you arrive in Zanabad by a broken track, at the bottom of a passage barred with a tarp to protect privacy.

"My mother arrived here 15 years ago" with her five children, Anissa says, sitting on carpets and assaulted by a swarm of children.

Bibikoh lost her first husband, who was killed by a rocket, before being remarried to a brother-in-law, who then died from an illness.

She was scratching a living doing laundry for others, but found Kabul rents too expensive.

In Zanabad, Anissa says, land was cheap.

The first widows had already begun to lay down their belongings and their grief in the largely deserted suburb to form a tightly-knit community — though no one any longer knows exactly who began it, and when.

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