For years, plastic surgeons have labored in Afghanistan to repair the scars of war. More recently, they are satisfying the desires of peace.
Take Parwin, a 23-year-old Afghan accountant of Hazara origin.
A few years ago, if a divorced woman like Parwin sought plastic surgery, it was more than likely her need arose from wounds stemming from violence, including mutilations like that reported in the August 2010 issue of Time magazine, whose cover featured a young Afghan woman whose ears and nose were cut off by her husband.
Since the United States’ 2001 invasion, American plastic surgeons like those at the Grossman Burn Foundation and others have descended on Afghanistan to treat war-related wounds, mend cleft lips and perform other procedures.
But Parwin recently visited the Hamkar Surgical Clinic in Kabul — featuring the only two private plastic surgeons in town — to make her flat Asiatic nose more western in a bid to please her new love interest. It’s a sign of how some parts of Afghan society are growing wealthier and adopting a taste for values associated with globalization, reported The National last year.
Now, however, the emerging middle classes, who have been exposed to trends in Iran and India, have a disposable income and are willing to pay for plastic surgery purely for cosmetic reasons.
(Based in the United Arab Emirates, The National article ran photos from the same shoot that produced these previously unpublished images.)
The story of the Hamkar Surgical Clinic echoes Deborah Rodriguez and Kristin Ohlson’s “Kabul Beauty School,” the acclaimed 2007 book that related Rodriguez’s tale of leaving her life as a hairdresser in Michigan to set up a beauty salon to soothe traumatized Afghan women.
“Kabul Beauty School” sparked disbelief when it was first published. Skeptics asked how anyone could devote so much time to cosmetics in Afghanistan when the embattled country was facing such extraordinary challenges.
Soon enough, however, those questions subsided. In a country where women are often horrifically oppressed, it becomes a gesture of defiance for someone like Parwin to choose to alter and, in the process, define herself. It is, in its way, a brave refusal to allow war and violence to squelch our identity, including our vanity. “Just because God made me ugly doesn’t mean I have to stay that way,” she said.
Like Parwin, other patients who came to the Hamkar Surgical Clinic were seeking nose jobs. Each had their own story.
Latitude News editor John Dyer wrote the text for this article.