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2012-03-16

Paula Lerner Remembered: Emmy Award-Winning Photographer of Afghan Women

Guests

Rangina Hamidi, president of Kandahar Treasure, the first women-run business in Kandahar. After residing in the United States, she returned to her native Afghanistan shortly after the 9/11 attacks. Just this year, she came back to the U.S. due to the deteriorating safety situation in her homeland.

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Afghan businesswoman Rangina Hamidi remembers the late award-winning photographer Paula Lerner, who has died of breast cancer at the age of 52. Lerner was the principal photographer for the Emmy Award-winning project, "Behind the Veil: An Intimate Journey into the Lives of Kandahar’s Women Featuring Photography." "Even though she’s physically gone, I would urge more Americans to get involved the way Paula did, because Paula connected with the Afghan people — and, of course, there were women, but you can do that with the men, as well — on a level that none of the international military forces that have been there for more than 10 years could connect," Hamidi says. "Paula put behind all or any pre-notions of what Afghans are and really just gave her soul to the people by being present on a day-to-day, second-to-second basis and not being judgmental about what Afghans were or how Afghans are." [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Rangina, for—we only have a few seconds, but your thoughts on Paula Lerner, the great Boston photographer who spent so much time with you and other women in Kandahar, won an Emmy for her work, who just died last week of breast cancer? Your thoughts?

RANGINA HAMIDI: We need—and thank you for bringing that up, because we need more of Paula Lerners. Even though she’s physically gone, I would urge more Americans to get involved the way Paula did, because Paula connected with the Afghan people—and, of course, there were women, but you can do that with the men, as well—on a level that none of the international military forces that have been there for more than 10 years could connect, because Paula put behind all or any pre-notions of what Afghans are and really just gave her soul to the people by being present on a day-to-day, second-to-second basis and not being judgmental about what Afghans were or how Afghans are. Paula really connected with the people of Afghanistan in a way that I’ve not seen anybody in my nine years of presence in Kandahar.

You know, one short story was that when she was in Kandahar with the women, the women started singing to her with her goodbye—during her goodbye party, and then Paula also sang a song to them in English. They both started crying, without understanding a word of what each was saying to the other, because they connected on a way, through music, which is a very cultural thing, that doesn’t exist in other forms. And so, Paula will always be remembered not only by me, who was a dear and best friend, but by the many hundreds of women and men in Afghanistan who met her. And we need more of Paula Lerners, the American citizens like Paula Lerners, to connect with Afghanistan, and not [inaudible] military.

AMY GOODMAN: Rangina Hamidi, I want to thank you very much for being with us, president of Kandahar Treasure, the first women-run business in Kandahar. We are linking to the interview we did with you when you were in Kandahar two years ago, showing Paula Lerner’s photos. You can go to democracynow.org. Thank you so much.

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