Afghan women ex­press pride in ren­o­vat­ing his­toric palace


KABUL: Afghan Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani has ear­marked $20 mil­lion to ren­o­vate Darul Aman Palace, lo­cated 16 km from the cap­i­tal Kabul.

The palace, which was Afghanistan’s cap­i­tal un­der re­formist King Aman­ul­lah, who achieved in­de­pen­dence from Britain in 1919, is a source of his­tor­i­cal pride for many Afghans.

The long-awaited ren­o­va­tion in­volves 100 Afghan en­gi­neers and staff, a fifth of whom are women.

“It’s a big honor to be part of the team restor­ing this once-mag­nif­i­cent palace,” fe­male en­gi­neer Tahira Mo­ham­madi told Arab News.

Once com­pleted, the palace will serve as Afghanistan’s biggest na­tional gallery. “We’ve re­moved tons of hang­ing con­crete walls, buck­led roofs and scrappy met­als,” fe­male en­gi­neer Zahra Jaf­fari told Arab News.

The ren­o­va­tion in­cludes “new power, air-con­di­tion­ing, ven­ti­la­tion, water and other sys­tems that a modern na­tional gallery re­quires,” she said, adding that the build­ing’s ex­te­rior will be re­stored to its orig­i­nal form to pre­serve its his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance.

“As a fe­male en­gi­neer, I’m proud to work on restor­ing this his­toric build­ing, and to take part in re­build­ing my coun­try.”

By work­ing along­side men on such a project, the fe­male en­gi­neers say they have over­come taboos.

Jaf­fari at­tributes such progress to the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity’s pres­ence and sup­port for Afghanistan.

As with any project in­volv­ing women, she says the fe­male en­gi­neers fear reprisals by rad­i­cal groups such as the Tal­iban and Daesh.

“We’re aware of the pos­si­ble threats,” said Jaf­fari. “In­side the build­ing, se­cu­rity is pro­vided by po­lice and guards, but out­side we have to look out for our­selves.”

One-fifth of en­gi­neers and staff tasked with ren­o­vat­ing Kabul’s Darul Aman Palace are women.

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