Ground Report | New Delhi: Women saffron growers in Afghanistan; Hundreds of working women work on the saffron fields of Shafiqeh Attai, a woman involved in the saffron business in Afghanistan. Attai says the Taliban cannot silence them. The hardline Taliban have once again kept women out of public life since taking control of Afghanistan in mid-August this year.
Under these circumstances, many businesswomen have been forced to leave the country. It is feared that under the current Taliban regime, Afghan women may face the hardships of the past again.
The Taliban imposed various restrictions on women during their first term from 1996 to 2001, which closed the door to education, employment, and business. During this time, Afghan women were allowed to go out of the house with a male relative.
Women saffron growers in Afghanistan
Shafiqeh Attai founded her business in 2007 in the western Afghan province of Herat under the name Pashtun Zarghoon Saffron Women’s Company. The company produces, processes, and packages the world’s most expensive spice, saffron, on its 60 acres of land with the help of about 1,000 women workers. Saffron is then exported abroad. According to Atai, “No matter what happens, we will not just sit at home, because we have worked very hard.”
Women who work in the saffron crop support their families through this work. Atai says the proceeds will help her send her children to school, buy them nice clothes and other necessities. “We have worked hard and we will not sit idly by,” said Shafiqeh Attai, 40. They should ignore us, but we will not remain silent. “
Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium and heroin, accounting for 80 to 90 percent of global production. Afghan saffron is mostly grown in Herat Province. With a price of more than five thousand US dollars per kg, saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. It is used in dishes, perfumes, medicines, teas and even aphrodisiacs to increase sexual desire. Saffron is also called ‘red gold’.
Cultivation of saffron
In Afghanistan, in the hot sun, fine and bright purple saffron flowers are harvested in October and November. Most of the women farmers working in these crops are between the ages of fifty and sixty. She starts picking saffron flowers early in the morning before they dry out. She then divides the flower petals into two parts and pulls out a thread or sigma. It is highly skilled and hard work.
Attai worries about the future of her business, as well as women across Afghanistan who are living in an uncertain situation without education, employment, and representation in government. She says one of the reasons for the trouble is that efforts will be made to stop her employment in the Islamic Emirate.
According to her, “they [the Taliban] have prevented women from going to school and university, and have not given them any position in the government. I’m worried about what’s going to happen next. “
Many businesswomen have also fled the city of Herat, near the Iran-Turkmen border, since the withdrawal of Western forces from Afghanistan. Shafiqeh Attai says she too can leave the country, but doing so will waste all her hard work.
With inputs from AFP