“In Afghanistan, all women are heroes. They die every day, but never give up.”
— Laila who emigrated to the United States in 2016
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Since the United States and its allies defeated the Taliban in 2001, women’s rights in Afghanistan have enlivened many of the global stories of war. Even in the midst of devastation, there were recognizable signs of progress: Afghan girls went to school, Afghan women got college degrees, got jobs and participated in more public life. .. The burqa came off and the hairdresser’s sign went up. A female journalist fearlessly asked the Taliban leaders on television. The other women became mayors and ambassadors. Little by little, slowly and steadily, women-mostly in urban areas-moving from under the Taliban’s conservative and theocratic thumbs.
It took only a few days for much of that progress to collapse. As the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan in August, new days every day put new restrictions on women. Currently, women are unable to play sports and college classes are separated by gender. There is growing concern that the country is rapidly retreating into a repressive past.
Today, the most endangered are the women who have paved the way for the very tradition. Many people are hiding. Hundreds of people went out into the streets in protest of the administration, but only encountered rifle bat and stick brute force attacks. Others ran away.
But running away was nothing new. Afghan women and their families have long sought refuge in other parts of the world. Those who have fled are split between an unfamiliar future in unfamiliar places and the past of a beloved country where careers, families and communities are left out of reach. I noticed.
The Times spoke with four women who sought refuge in the United States. All four fled because they were endangered in their hometown. Some are recent, others are not. Broken hearts are heavy, but they are not surprising. They knew that the spaces that were carefully carved out for them in society would soon be eroded. They were always warning about it.
Women’s surnames and other identification information have been withheld because they fear the safety of their relatives who are still in Afghanistan. The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
Faranas, 28 years old
Arrived in USA in February
As a TV journalist, I went to Doha, Qatar last October to cover peace talks with the Taliban. When I was there, I interviewed Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen. I talked to him uncovered, and he was very uncomfortable — it wasn’t intentional, but the encounter was big news.
After peace talks, the Taliban began assassinating journalists. A couple of my colleagues were killed and I was told I was on the Taliban hit list. Security forces told me to stay home and stay low. The days hiding in Kabul were the most difficult days of my life. I have never felt such a fear. When I was a little safer, I went to the French embassy to get a visa and soon left Kabul.
The day Kabul fell into the Taliban, I shaved all my hair. I was watching the news at my friend’s house NS Something. I saw the Taliban go to Toro’s TV studio, and I can’t help but think that the same people who killed many of my colleagues were sitting in the same studio where I worked with my colleagues every day did not. The Taliban are now taking over the streets of Kabul — just as we, my generation, worked, protested, and made music and art.
Women’s lives in Afghanistan have never been easier, even in the last two decades. The difference now is that their lives will be more difficult. Everyone sympathizes with Afghan women, but now is the time to change your perception. Afghan women don’t need your compassion, they need the world to take responsibility for the turmoil it creates.
Hadia, 25 years old
Arrived in USA in December
The Taliban killed two of my brothers because we are Shiite Hazara. I was only three years old when the Taliban hijacked the Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998. At that time, they killed their only 13-year-old brother. They shot his chest and legs and left them on the street. We weren’t even allowed to collect his body. Then my next brother was killed in 2001 in Takhar. My dad couldn’t accept it, it was too much for him, and he just died of a heart attack.
Something like that only destroys your entire vision of humanity. It destroys your entire childhood.
Last November, I always started receiving anonymous calls. At first I thought it wasn’t serious. But a few days later, I saw a car outside the building where I lived. This was strange because there was a garage in the basement of the building and it was not allowed to park in front of the building. When I started walking, the car started moving after me. Later that day, after finishing work and leaving the office, I saw the car again. Then it happened again the next day. A few days later, at 3:20 am, someone knocked on the door of my apartment. That was when I was scared. I talked to my boss and mom. And my mother told me, “I don’t want to lose another child, you have to leave.”
So I came to the United States on a tourist visa in December 2020. It couldn’t be helped. This wasn’t what I planned, nor was it what I really wanted to do. I brought a backpack with some clothes and my laptop, that’s it.
Returning to Afghanistan, at this moment my family is hiding. They left our house the day before the city of Mazar-i-Sharif collapsed. The last time I talked to my mother was around 2am that day for 5 minutes. She said they were alive, safe, hiding somewhere, and don’t worry. But since then, the connection has gone down, the internet has gone down, and I can’t access anything. I’m just waiting.
I wake up with heavy chest every day. I used to be a role model for my generation, but they saw me as someone helping to make a difference for them. And now look where I am. I have no hope. I lost — lost between borders.
Moved to the United States in 2016
My father was a military general and my mother was a housewife. When I was born, there was a war in Afghanistan, so my dad took us to Pakistan. I was 1 or 2 years old. I returned to Kabul when I was a teenager.
Understand the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan
Who is the Taliban? The Taliban occurred in 1994 in the turmoil after the Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989. They enforced the rules with brutal public punishments such as whiplash, amputation, and the mass death penalty. Here we will elaborate on the story of their origin and their record as ruler.
He studied Islamic law at Kabul University and became a defense lawyer and legal counsel. I traveled to rural Afghanistan and worked with the rights of women and children.
As you know, Afghan women suffered a lot from their families and there were many difficult cases for me. I worked with a woman who was sexually abused by her father-in-law while her husband was in Pakistan, and she was alone. I helped her get divorced, and his family came after me, hurt me, and stabbed my thigh twice with a knife.
After that, there were many dangers to me in Afghanistan. My husband worked in the U.S. military — he had a construction company — and we came here …