By Haleema Sharifi
For half of Afghanistan, the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan may seem like a victory, but for Afghanistan’s women, it is a torment. In the aftermath of the Taliban takeover, women working in offices, banks, and schools are particularly vulnerable. After two decades of war against the current government, Afghanistan seems to be at a crossroads again. The Taliban’s past and present attitude towards women and minorities is causing thousands to flee the country.
Like hundreds of other Afghan journalists, Naziri*, an ethnic Hazara, lost her job. In just a few days, she lost both her career and her home. After graduating with a degree in journalism, she joined Ariana and then the Jahan television network in Kabul. Her mother, a retired teacher, taught Naziri courage. While most people do not believe in the liberty and freedom of women, Naziri was always encouraged to be independent by her. As a single parent, her mother has been a living legend for her.
The residents of the Afshar area in Kabul lived a reality up until the Taliban unexpectedly seized control of the capital in a matter of days. Naziri says, “Now all the talk of freedom seems like a distant dream because Taliban’s interpretation of Sharia law says women should take care of the home and children, and they should be fully covered with no voice in government decisions.” This type of oppression has caused thousands of women who had previously worked in banks, corporations, and television stations to flee the country.
Although leaving one’s country, home, and belongings is not yet possible, as an independent woman for years, Naziri couldn’t allow herself not to move freely without a ‘burka’ and a male member of the family accompanying her. After the Taliban took over Kabul, Naziri, her mother, and three brothers fled to Pakistan, crossing the Spin Buldak border. They were interrogated and bullied by the Taliban while crossing the wall, according to Naziri. The family has now been in Quetta for seven weeks. As of August 22, 2021, ten other families have taken shelter in a mosque in Quetta, Baluchistan, including Naziri’s family.
Naziri shares the mosque with many other families. People like Naziri, whose livelihoods have been lost, live in uncertainty as a result. Taking shelter in a mosque is the safest option because no one will charge them rent, and they can use limited facilities (electricity, running water, carpeted rooms, food donations). People in the community help them with basic facilities, but there are many families to take care of, and in the coming months, they will need help fighting Quetta’s harsh weather.
Mistreating women makes societies less stable and poorer. Afghanistan’s experience is proof of this. As a result of the Taliban taking over, a nightmare became a reality. According to media reports, women would be free to work in hospitals and banks in the government, but the Taliban behave quite differently on the ground. Taliban in 2021 is the same as Taliban in 1996. Their misogynistic attitude is the same. According to Zahid Hussain, “the commanders in the field are believed to have more hardline views.” They include teenagers who joined the resistance after the fall of the Taliban government in December 2001.
As a result of this new generation of Taliban commanders, the old guards have died or been sidelined. Peace negotiations with the Americans were handled mainly by veterans who weren’t on the field. Video and pictures of the post-protest demonstrate that the Taliban are in no way the ones who talk about women’s freedom and peace on TV. They lived on mountains away from civilization their entire lives. All they know is resistance and cruelty.
In one instance, Naziri said that a Taliban mocked them while they were passing through a Taliban checkpoint, asking them, “Where are you escaping? Pakistan? We will get you there as well”. Naziri says that thought haunts me. Like that, thousands of women workers and journalists like Naziri are now misplaced and are living uncertain lives. They are worried about their future. They have left behind the home they worked on for years and years.
Ultimately, the family has no choice but to live in the common rooms of the mosque without enough facilities. All the females share one common room, and for the males, there is another room, including Naziri’s little brothers. Owing to the harsh weather of Quetta city, the family has very little to survive the winters. Naziri’s mother isn’t much hopeful of Afghanistan’s future. She remembers the previous takeover of the Taliban and its aftermath clearly. Without a job or their homes, they are here with only a bag of clothes.*The name has been changed due to security risks.