by Abdul Haleem
KABUL, May 14 (Xinhua) -- Following all the traffic rules and regulations, a female driver brought her car to a halt among dozens of other vehicles driven by men as the traffic light turned red at a crossroad in the Chaman-e-Hazori locality on Wednesday and slowly accelerated away after the light turned green.
After a few minutes of driving, she parked her car next to Faroshgah, a shopping mall in downtown Kabul, to shop for clothes for her children.
"Of course, it is difficult to sit behind the steering-wheel in this male-dominated society where tradition is so deep-rooted, but I have no choice but driving on my own," the female driver told Xinhua in the carpark, requesting anonymity to safeguard herself and her family.
In conservative Afghanistan women are usually are reluctant to talk to men or give their names and addresses.
Going into detail about her private life and family, she said that her husband works for the ministry of education, two of her daughters are studying in school, and that her son is in university.
Driving an old 1993 Toyota Corolla, she said, "I have been driving by myself in this city for almost four years," she recalled. "I use the car for shopping, visiting relatives and sometimes dropping my daughters off at school."
However, she admitted that her husband and son are against her driving and they don't like to sit inside the car when she drives, believing it is shameful to sit inside a car driven by a woman.
In patriarchal Afghanistan where people, especially, in rural areas adhere to ancient tribal traditions, prefer their women and girls to stay at home.
The tradition of suppressing women during the Taliban's iron-hand reign which collapsed in late 2001, had further strengthened as the hardliner group had confined women to their homes and outlawed school for girls.
"I can drive a car, I can read and write, I also can work as a teacher," the female driver said.
Nevertheless, she said, "I am still just working as a ousewife."
Aged in her 40s and wearing the minus burqa national dress, the Afghan traditional veil covering women from head to toe, the female driver told Xinhua that she had, before returning to her homeland in 2003, lived in Pakistan, Iran and Tajikistan for several years.
She said that women in those Islamic countries drive cars openly.
"If a Muslim lady in Pakistan, in Iran or in Tajikistan has the right to drive a car, then why don't Afghan women," the driver quizzed.
However, she exclaimed that sometimes the male drivers, especially the elderly ones, create problem for her by cutting her up on the road, or using abusive language to discourage her from driving.
Afghan women in the past until the 1990s when the erstwhile Soviet Union-backed regime was in power, used to drive cars and even buses in cities to transport commuters.
However, the number of women driving in Afghan cities has slowly but steadily been on the rise over the past decade, with a handful of women regularly seen driving cars in Kabul city, western Herat and even taxis in the northern Mazar-e-Sharif city.
"I am determined to entirely demolish the illogic and ancient tradition that hold women as second-class citizens and a powerless segment in society, and prove that Afghan women are as capable and as talented as the women in developed world," the female driver maintained.