Crowdsourcing Mornings Stuff

Crowdsourcing Mornings: Where Prison Is Kind Of Freedom

Welcome to the Crowdsourcing Mornings segment!  Every weekday morning, Geek Alabama talks about and features one crowdsourcing project from crowdsourcing sites such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and others.  The hope with Crowdsourcing Mornings is to feature and help a project be successful and reach its fundraising goal.  Please enjoy today’s featured project!

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Afghanistan is a place of extremes, the best and worst of humanity live side by side. Fear and courage, despair and hope, life and death coexist. It was in Herat’s Women Prison that I experienced these extremes the most.

Hi, My name is Kiana Hayeri and I’m an Iranian-Canadian photographer living in Afghanistan for the last 8 years. I am publishing my first photobook, a book born out of a journey with a group of brave women convicted of murder; women who themselves embodied the best and worst of humanity. They changed me for life. I am here to ask you to help me bring this photo book to life so other people can go on this journey as well.

In 2019, I spent 2 weeks inside Herat Women’s Prison in northwest Afghanistan, getting to know some of the 119 inmates incarcerated there. These women saw no other way out of abuse and domestic violence but to kill their husbands – an act that put them in even graver danger from their dead husbands’ families. That’s why the 15-foot wall and the barbed wire surrounding the prison were there. To keep intruders who might want to take revenge, from getting in, as much as they were there to keep inmates from getting out.

While these inmate’s past lives were harrowing, their lives inside prison were peaceful, happy and free. Despite the overcrowded cells, many inmates felt freer in prison than they had been in their marriages.

It was kind of like a commune where the women shared responsibilities. At the prison, women would cook together, wash the dishes, hold funerals when someone lost a loved one and raise each other’s children. At times, they would babysit for prison gaurds, who themselves had no other choice but to bring their children to work. I don’t mean to celebrate the fact that they were in prison. Many of them shouldn’t have been there, yet, the inmates had united and made the most out of their circumstance.

“Where Prison Is Kind Of Freedom”, published by The New York Times Magazine have been very well received around the world and was awarded the prestigious Robert Capa Gold Medal in 2020.

In 2021, the Taliban rapidly took over the country, and all of us watched in disbelief as 20 years of progress in women’s rights, education and freedom of expression was wiped in 20 days and the country sank into darkness. On August 12, 3 short days before the Taliban took the capital of Afghanistan, the prison guards opened the gates of Herat prison, releasing all inmates with no question asked. But for these women, the release was anything but liberating. The freedom they experienced in jail is now taken away and replaced with more restrictions, fear and uncertainty. Today, millions of Afghan women are put away in this larger prison, called Afghanistan.

Since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, I have tried multiple times to go back inside Herat Prison but every time I have been blocked and access was not given. I’ve spoken to women who have spent time in that prison under the Taliban and that safe haven that that the prison once was have turned into a place where women are being tortured.

This book is a collaboration with renowned book designer, Ramon Pez. We’re not designing a traditional photo book but rather a tactile piece of art with surprises. We invite you to interact with the pages and feel like you’re entering the prison, like a welcomed intruder behind the prison’s 15-feet walls. We want you to share in the women’s fears, courage, hopes and despair. I’m still in contact with some of these women and they’re equally excited about the book. Let’s make it happen!

As of August 10th, this project has raised $6,000 of their $31,122 goal. This project has 37 days left to raise the $31,122 or it will not be funded. For a pledge of $24, you will get a postcard set.  For a pledge of $51, you will get one book.  To learn more and to pledge money, go to: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kianahayeri/where-prison-is-kind-of-a-freedom?

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