An Afghan woman in Kabul: ‘Now I have to burn everything I achieved’
Early on Sunday morning I was heading to university for a class when a group of women came running out from the women’s dormitory. I asked what had happened and one of them told me the police were evacuating them because the Taliban had arrived in Kabul, and they will beat women who do not have a burqa.
We all wanted to get home, but we couldn’t use public transport. The drivers would not let us in their cars because they did not want to take responsibility for transporting a woman. It was even worse for the women from the dormitory, who are from outside Kabul and were scared and confused about where they should go.
Meanwhile, the men standing around were making fun of girls and women, laughing at our terror.
“Go and put on your chadari [burqa],” one called out. “It is your last days of being out on the streets,” said another. “I will marry four of you in one day,” said a third.
With the government offices closed down, my sister ran for miles across town to get home.
“I shut down the PC that helped to serve my people and community for four years with a lot of pain,” she said. “I left my desk with tearful eyes and said goodbye to my colleagues. I knew it was the last day of my job.”
I have nearly completed two simultaneous degrees from two of the best universities in Afghanistan. I should have graduated in November from the American University of Afghanistan and Kabul University, but this morning everything flashed before my eyes.
I worked for so many days and nights to become the person I am today, and this morning when I reached home, the very first thing my sisters and I did was hide our IDs, diplomas and certificates. It was devastating. Why should we hide the things that we should be proud of? In Afghanistan now we are not allowed to be known as the people we are.
As a woman, I feel like I am the victim of this political war that men started. I felt like I can no longer laugh out loud, I can no longer listen to my favourite songs, I can no longer meet my friends in our favourite cafe, I can no longer wear my favourite yellow dress or pink lipstick. And I can no longer go to my job or finish the university degree that I worked for years to achieve.
I loved doing my nails. Today, as I was on my way home, I glanced at the beauty salon where I used to go for manicures. The shop front, which had been decorated with beautiful pictures of girls, had been whitewashed overnight.
All I could see around me were the fearful and scared faces of women and ugly faces of men who hate women, who do not like women to get educated, work and have freedom. Most devastating to me were the ones who looked happy and made fun of women. Instead of standing by our side, they stand with the Taliban and give them even more power.
Afghan women sacrificed a lot for the little freedom they had. As an orphan I weaved carpets just to get an education. I faced a lot of financial challenges, but I had a lot of plans for my future. I did not expect everything to end up like this.
Now it looks like I have to burn everything I achieved in 24 years of my life. Having any ID card or awards from the American University is risky now; even if we keep them, we are not able to use them. There are no jobs for us in Afghanistan.
When the provinces collapsed one after another, I was thinking of my beautiful girlish dreams. My sisters and I could not sleep all night, remembering the stories my mother used to tell us about the Taliban era and the way they treated women.
I did not expect that we would be deprived of all our basic rights again and travel back to 20 years ago. That after 20 years of fighting for our rights and freedom, we should be hunting for burqas and hiding our identity.
During the last months, as the Taliban took control in the provinces, hundreds of people fled their houses and came to Kabul to save their girls and wives. They are living in parks or the open air. I was part of a group of American University students that tried to help them by collecting donations of cash, food and other necessities and distributing it to them.
I could not stop my tears when I heard the stories of some families. One had lost their son in the war and didn’t have any money to pay the taxi fare to Kabul, so they gave their daughter-in-law away in exchange for transportation. How can the value of a woman be equal to the cost of a journey?
Then today, when I heard that the Taliban had reached Kabul, I felt I was going to be a slave. They can play with my life any way they want.
I also worked as a teacher at an English-language education centre. I cannot bear to think that I can no longer stand in front of the class, teaching them to sing their ABCs. Every time I remember that my beautiful little girl students should stop their education and stay at their home, my tears fall.