“To beat a woman is to love a woman”, said my driver as we ambled through the dark streets of Kandahar. “Democracy should not come too quickly to Afghanistan”, he added. It was 2005. I bit my lip and sat on my hands, afraid of what I might do from the back seat of his pick-up truck. Though strong for my size I wasn’t prepared to antagonise a hefty Pashto man at 9 p.m. ten kilometers from the guesthouse I was staying at. It was the wrong time of day to entertain the likes or dislikes of an Afghan seasoned by war, rage not withstanding. So, contrary to what every fibre of my being was telling me to say and do, I kept my mouth shut and hands safely tucked away.

I don’t know why I was surprised by the words that slipped so easily from his lips. I knew that Kandahar and most of the southern regions of Afghanistan were teeming with this kind of thinking. I suppose it was actually hearing it that made me cringe like I’d been beaten beyond reparable damage. But it was my spirit he had made a rather large dent in. It was the same spirit that had shared endless cups of tea with beautiful Afghan women all over the country. It was the same spirit that was crushed when Malalai Kakar was assassinated in front of her home in September 2008. And it was the same spirit that learned, rather painfully over the two year period during which I lived and worked in Afghanistan, that no matter what I did or thought or photographed or wrote about, Afghanistan would unfold at its own speed in the hands of its own people. Many would suffer in that process, especially women.

Forsaken documents my time in Afghanistan. I am grateful to the women I met and shared time with. They are forever etched into my memories. They have made me a better human being.