Taliban’s Afghanistan in Crisis: Female Students Talk of A Year Without Books, But They Continue Their Fight For Education In More Than One Way

A group of people whose life has changed drastically over the past year after the Taliban came to power, are students, female more so. The Taliban has been consistent with its previous reign and has not allowed girls to go to school above grade 6 even though it remains one of the pre-conditions of being internationally recognized which the Taliban desires.

Today, a year later, Hadia Amin, a female student who would have been in 11th grade if the Taliban allowed girls to go to school, is decked in a full hijab and makes her way to an educational center with strong determination. With the help of some educational centers scattered across the country, girls like Hadia, are being able to pursue education, albeit in a different way. But, these girls believe that getting an education is a must, in whatever form it comes and they are not ready to waste a year of their life due to some hardline group with regressive policies.

Hadia recalls the nightmarish day of the fall of Kabul, where this 17-year-old currently lives. “When I was getting ready, my friend informed me that the Taliban had entered Kabul. I was very scared when I heard this news, and my mother also advised me not to go to school,” said Hadia.

Hadia said that her mother, like women of the past, had experienced what it was like to live under the Taliban regime with no freedom and hence, had started advising her daughter in the earlier stages as well, as to what to do and not to do, as the Taliban grabbed power. “She was right. It had been better that I had stayed at home. That day, I couldn’t even fathom that I might never be able to go to school again. I stayed at home until we got the news that schools were closed. I have been staying at home for a year now,” explains Hadia.

“I had heard stories about women not being allowed to go to school, not being allowed to wear clothes that they wanted; not being allowed to go out without their husband, brother or father and even being whipped for the smallest mistake. I never knew that I would face the same reality,” Hadia adds.

Hadia had been a very bright student and had dreams and hopes of being able to pass the Kankor (University) examinations with a perfect score. “I was disappointed when I knew that the Taliban would never reopen schools for girls despite their false promises. I had gone to school every day for 11 years and wanted to finish my University studies too. Now, everything seems lost,” grieves Hadia. However, she is armed with determination to study more and continues to study at home with her subject books, so that she doesn’t lag behind students of her age. She is also learning English at an educational center, knowing that if she loses hope there will be no future, but if she continues to persevere, she will succeed one day.

Zainab (name changed to protect identity) shares a similar story as Hadia’s. She has not been able to go to school for a year and had been studying in Daikundi province earlier and even participated in cultural programmes. However, education also comes in other forms. Zainab is also interested in kickboxing.

According to her, she still follows this sport and even though she does not go to school, she continues to practice at sports clubs despite restrictions imposed by the Taliban.

“Many sports clubs are still operating and girls go to these gyms to practice. Although it has been a year since schools have been closed, I believe that we should not lose this time and try to make up for this year every day. The future is bright and I will never give up. I still have time to study, until then I will do whatever I can despite the regressive decrees of the Taliban,” said Zainab.

However, Zainab is cautious as girls like her train secretly at these gymnasiums, away from the prying eyes of the Taliban moral police. She mentions that if the Taliban find out about the existence of such clubs or if they find out that girls are training there, they will surely close its gates or members of the Taliban may even kill the girls who train at these places. That is why girls and female athletes no longer continue their activities due to fear of Taliban reprisal.

“Many girls do not even dream of coming to school because of the Taliban’s fear. If all the girls tried to protest and come out on the streets, we would definitely get a better result. But, they are afraid of this group. I am also afraid, but I am trying, and will not stop until the situation change,” says a determined Zainab.

She has been training in kickboxing for over six years. “Nobody can take our dreams away from us, not even the Taliban with their backward policies. We have already fought over the past many years to achieve our goals. For example, I have fought against my family to continue to train in kickboxing as they didn’t like that I entered this field. However, I filled a bag with wooden blocks at home and started practicing there,” recalls Zainab.

After seeing her passion for this sport, Zainab’s family allowed her to go to the gymnasium and train under the supervision of a teacher.
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Before the fall, she wanted to go outside Afghanistan for a race at her own expense, but with the arrival of the Taliban, everything changed for her. Her professor, who was a man, did not cooperate with her, due to the fear of the Taliban.

Although the lives of these two girls in two different provinces, one in the capital and the other in one of the central provinces, may be different but there are many similarities. They both are waiting for the news of the reopening of schools. They both are working towards realizing their dreams. In the midst of a world of despair, they both are looking for the silver lining. While one waits to hold the University degrees in her hands, the other is patiently counting the days until there is a championship medal around her neck.

Fatima Farhang
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