Once you have a taste of freedom, its difficult to live a sub-servient life. Nazia Mohammadi was a free, independent, progressive Afghan woman of the 21st century. She matched the steps of her working husband and earned a living. She lived a veil-free life with none commenting on her clothes or advising her to wear a burqa. Like a strong woman of any progressive country, Nazia, managed her home along with her husband and also achieved good career progression. There was nothing out of reach for Nazia, whose success story was one of the prime examples of the 20 years of progress women and their rights had made under the Republic regime.
Everything changed on August 15, 2021. Being an international relations graduate, the change in the power equation, didn’t bother Nazia. However, the return of a hardline, Islamist group, which is completely against women rights and consider them as a commodity only fit for the four walls of a home, meant that Nazia’s life will take a dramatic turn, for the worse.
Nazia comes across a very bold and fearless woman during her interview with Reporterly as she was among the very few people, who didn’t ask for her name to be changed, despite the Taliban’s reprisal.
“I was at home, and getting ready to go to work. My work was part-time, I received a call from the office that the Taliban had entered Kabul,” exclaims Nazia, with labored breathing which reminded her of those moments which changed her life. But, Nazia was determined. She stepped out of her house to go to work, however, scenes of the streets depicted her worst nightmares.
“The streets were crowded; no cars were agreeing to ferry anyone and people started running away,” she recalls.
The dark clouds of their bleak future suddenly started clouding her vision. She rushed home, wanting to hear a reassurance from her husband that none of it is real. Since, there were no explosions or gunfire heard in Kabul, even her husband reassured her that it might be a rumour, but his face depicted the anxiety.
At her home on the day of the fall, Nazia waited with bated breaths for the confirmation of the rumour. The Taliban had come to power and it reminded Nazia of the women who had lived under their previous regime and their terrible tales. She shivered at the sheer thought that she was going to experience the same fate.
Nazia had never encountered a Taliban member nor had she experienced any kind of discrimination for being a woman. She was educated and lived a sheltered, maybe cocooned life. “The news came as a shock to me. I couldn’t not believe that I would live a life of restrictions under the Taliban. My husband and I were wondering where to run and hide. We were worried about our two children and every waking hour, we asked each other what our fate will be?”
For the first two weeks, the 27-year-old woman, and her family had their eyes glued to the television set for any change in the news and if there was any hope of escaping the country. Anxiety, depression engulfed the Mohammadis as they stayed indoors, fearing reprisal by the Taliban.
“We have always been a new-age family where everyone could study, go to work and travel around easily, but after the Taliban seized power, it changed,” says Nazia.
She no longer had her individual freedom on one hand and on the other, she was sentenced to imprisonment within the confines of her home, just because of her gender!
Nazia believes that the Taliban is slowly taking away even the basic right of living from women across the country with restrictions on education, work, dressing, travelling even inside the city and even their right to choose who to marry. She could no longer return to work. She could not easily navigate the market and she could not even go out of the house alone. Her biggest fear was wearing a head-to-toe hijab, when she hadn’t even worn a burqa all her life.
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“The Taliban issues decrees restricting women of their rights stating their understanding of the religion and their Sharia. I don’t have the choice to go out alone and I must always be accompanied by a man. I can’t study; I can’t even protest against the discrimination. I don’t even have the option to choose what to wear. This is not just my story, but the story of every Afghan woman. For the Taliban, it is important that a woman should always be at home. A woman an object and not considered a human at all by the Taliban,” sighs Nazia with a hint of frustration in her voice.
“We can’t go inside the city easily, because the Taliban government has imposed restrictions in the city. When we go out, we have to wear a full hijab. Even on hot, exhausting day, we are forced to cover ourselves up completely. This has left me with no choice but to not step out of the house,” she adds.
Kabul, where people used to find ways to turn sorrowful days into joyous occasions, has become a city of ghosts, claims Nazia. “It has no trace of happiness, no trace of a happy soul,” said Nazia.
She had worked with the previous government, but now she has been unemployed for almost a year. Even her husband has been unemployed and this has led to economic problems for the family too who have managed to survive this past year under the Taliban regime by utilizing their savings.
“We don’t have much left now. Currently, it’s a free fall as we have no hope for the future as each day is a struggle with no job. Earlier, when we were unemployed, there was always a silver lining of finding a job or even the hope of a better tomorrow. But now, with the Taliban continuing to impose restrictions and the world doing nothing about it, we are only receiving disappointing news each day,” says Nazia.
The Mohammadi family considers their survival a miracle, but they have no goal or plan of what to do next. Like many Afghan citizens, they too are thinking of migrating to another country; to find a way to save themselves and their children, but as per Nazia, they have lost all of their stability.
Time is running out for Nazia and women like her, across Afghanistan. With the Taliban not relenting on doing anything to save women’s rights in the country and increasing restrictions and issuing decrees, the future is not only bleak, but shrouded in darkness.