I am an Afghan woman in my 20s, living in Kabul. I have five sisters. My oldest sister completed elementary school. The second one is a midwife, and my third sister is doing her PhD. My younger sister is a film-maker. And my youngest sister, she is a high school student and a member of a volleyball team. And I myself am doing my bachelor in one of Kabul’s universities. Although my parents are uneducated they have tried their best for their children to earn an education.
I have been working for a western NGO for two years advocating for women and working towards a stable, sustainable and equal society. When I heard the Taliban was taking over, I was worried about my future and about every single Afghan’s future, especially women and youth. It was a sad moment to think we women will return to the 1990s, and will live behind the closed doors and Burqa.
I am also frightened about what will happen to me. Because I work at a western NGO, my colleagues and I thought that we would be helped. But when we asked our foreign boss for assistance, she said that nothing will happen to us and she will stay here with us, and she refused to refer us for any visa.
When I heard about Taliban taking young girls and forcing them to marry their soldiers, I was worried for my family and me and so shared my concerns with a western women’s rights activist into get help. She said no, I can’t help you. You can get a pretend husband, she said. It was so sad to hear this from a feminist. She didn’t explain why she couldn’t help me. It was as if it wasn’t serious for her.
For the past two days, I haven’t left my house. I don’t even go near my window. I feel like a prisoner. I have lost so much freedom already, and I fear I will lose even more. When we were evacuated from our office, some of my male Afghan colleagues joked saying, ah, it’s the last time we will ever see you again! Now, we will have to get permission from your brother to see you, and he will say no! They found it funny. They thought life will stay the same for them, but will change for me. They don’t care.
Many men think that way. The day that I left my office for the last time, a man on the street approached me and said it’s my fault, the fault of women – they are becoming too liberal, and too shameless, so that the Taliban have come to discipline them. He said he’s not scared, since Taliban has not come for men, but women.
It has been years that my sisters and I are working to contribute to our society and make our future and our children’s future in Afghanistan better. Leaving was not an option before, as we did not want to leave our country. But now that we don’t feel safe, we have to make it an option.
It is sad to think about seeking refuge, but we must. I know what it’s like to be a refugee; to be homeless and face discriminations, to be called a dirty Afghan. That’s what we experienced 25 years ago, when we escaped the war in the 90s and briefly lived in Iran.
In the past I thought that, if worst came to worst, the NGO would protect me. Now I think they have forgotten me. My colleagues also feel the same way. One of them drove to the airport to try to flee the country even though she had no ticket and no visa. We are furious, mad and hopeless. Our madness is on President Ashraf Ghani and his allies. They made the wrong decision, but we are paying the price. Their wrong decision cost us 20 years of struggle advocating for women’s rights, independence, democracy and freedom, and sadly it cost lives of loved ones, it cost lives of Afghan men and women.
Because of commitments by international allies, at least we should have the chance to apply for a visa. It is not yet clear whether I will get one or not. But I worry for my sisters who are young and vulnerable, since they don’t have any connection with the international community and will be left behind. In sadness I say my life is worth more than my sisters’. But now, our fate lies in the hands of western governments. They will decide who to save, and who to ignore. And that breaks my heart.