Afghan girl disguises herself as a boy to please parents
Sitara Wafadar yearns for long hair like other girls. Instead, the Afghan teenager has disguised herself as a boy for more than a decade, forced by her parents to be the "son" they never had.
With five sisters and no brothers, Sitara lives by the gender-twisting custom known as "bacha poshi", which in Dari refers to a girl "dressed as a boy", enabling her to safely perform the duties of a son.
The 18-year-old, who resides with her impoverished family in a mud-brick house in a village in Afghanistan's eastern province of Nangarhar, has pretended to be a boy for most of her life.
Every morning she puts on the baggy shirt and trousers and flip flops typically worn by Afghan males. Sometimes she covers her short brown hair with a scarf and deepens her voice to conceal her real gender.
"I never think that I am a girl," Sitara tells AFP at the brick factory where she and her elderly father work six days a week as bonded labourers to repay money they borrowed from the owner and feed the family.
"My father always says 'Sitara is like my eldest son'. Sometimes... I attend funerals as his eldest son" -- something she would never be allowed to do as a girl.
Bacha poshi has a long history Afghanistan, where boys are valued more highly than girls.
Normally it is families with no male heirs who make a daughter dress as a boy so she can carry out the duties of a son. But some girls choose to pose as boys so they can enjoy the freedom their male counterparts take for granted in a country that treats women as second-class citizens.