Afghanistan's first female-only cafe opened its doors to (select) public in Kabul today as the world celebrated International Women's Day, according to Reuters, a rare move of public support for women in the highly conservative country.
The brainchild of an Afghan group called YoungWomen4Change, Kabul's new women-only Internet cafe is called "Sahar Gul," named after a teen girl who famously defied her relatives' demands that she turn to prostitution and was horrifically tortured for doing so.
In Afghanistan, women are often openly discrimminated against, abused and many purposefully under-educated.
Visitors to the cafe in Kabul will likely be the types of women outraged by President Hamid Karzai's recent backing of a new "code of conduct" authored by a prominent religious council that allows husbands to beat their wives, supports segregation, and says that women are worth less than men.
Members of the YoungWomen4Change group told Reuters that the new cafe is intended to combat societal bias against women by providing them with a safe, supportive environment that encourages their engagement with one another and with the wider world.
On their website, YoungWomen4Change tried to lure visitors to the new Internet cafe, which is filled with donated computers, by promising a "beautiful venue" that's also a "safe haven," adding, "we might even have a surprise for you."
It's the cafe itself, however, that's likely to come as a surprise to much of Afghan society, with activists hoping it will prove a welcome change in the daily lives of the capital city's many struggling women.