When I left school that day in 1995, I had no way of knowing I wouldn’t be allowed back for six years. Those six years—which could have been spent as my best learning and improving years—turned into the darkest and the scariest years of my life.
On the second day of their rule in Herat, the Taliban closed all the schools, universities and public bathhouses.
When we turned on the radio, Taliban were talking about enforcing the Sharia laws—warning that if people didn’t obey, they would be severely punished. Women and girls were to cover themselves head to toe and were not allowed to leave their homes. If they had to, a male family member was to escort them. They also closed TV stations and banned music. They ordered the men to wear turbans and let their beards grow.
For the first few months, I was still hopeful that the Taliban would change their minds and open the schools—but months turned into years. Fortunately, my father was educated and helped me and my sisters learn how to read and write at home.
When I was 10 years old, my mother sent me to our neighbor who was a tailor. In exchange to teach me tailoring, I cleaned her house and carried water from the mosque’s well. This small job became the only way I could leave home or have a semblance of social life.
Soon, most of our relatives had left Herat for the neighboring countries, and we become very isolated. Life was very tough during the Taliban regime. We spent every day in fear.
I watched as Taliban beat my father, brother and brother-in-law with whips because they took us to see the Herat River. I could do nothing but shake in fear as my brother’s back was bloodied.
Another time, they jailed my brother for a week for the crime of listening to music. They beat my mother for leaving home without my father. I still have nightmares when I think about those dark days.
Afghanistan is in a crucial time now; we must not let history repeat itself. We must ensure that the Taliban will not bring back the period of darkness and injustice.
We want peace—but a just, inclusive and sustainable peace. A peace that includes all aspects of human rights such as safety and security for all, education for women and children, access to justice, healthcare, food, clean water and freedom of choice.
We want meaningful participation for women in peace negotiations. Our demands and concerns must be heard and put into action. If the Taliban wants to be part of the Afghan government, they must promise that they will respect women’s rights. They must respect and accept Afghanistan’s constitution which prohibits many kinds of discrimination and gives men and women equal rights and duties under the law. They must do what the Constitution says: to allow Afghan women to get an education, seek justice, hold political positions, work in society and travel.
They must also promise to preserve and respect women’s achievements, rather than banish women from the workplaces and schools. They must stop their brutal tribal laws and stop stoning and executing women.
Afghan women want the international community by their side. With their support, Afghan women have come a long way. Giving up on Afghanistan will put women in a great danger and will take away the achievements that women laid their lives into.
With the pandemic and the world shifting their attention from Afghanistan, I worry that once again, Afghan women will fall into dark times. We must do what we can to prevent that from happening.