“The Taliban are here. They are in Kabul.” These words shook the world under 26-year-old Ali Reza Joya’s feet when he heard it on August 15, 2021. Three emotions ran high for this English teacher- fear: of what the future might look like under the hardline Islamists; confusion: of what to do next for himself and his family and finally, sadness: that years of his hard work, progress and education, will be lost.
With the Taliban’s takeover, the young educator’s stable life came to a definite halt. The Taliban’s dominance led to the gates of schools to be closed for girls from grades 6 to 12. This order of the Taliban not only caused the girls to be upset and disappointed, but also left many teachers affected. Joya’s educational center, where he had been teaching, was also shut down.
Even though Joya was armed with a graduate degree in economics, he had been an English teacher at a language training center, educating young minds.
“The lives of teachers and professors underwent many changes ever since the Taliban took over because their presence at educational centers has always been dependent on the presence of students. If students come, the teacher will also earn money, but if there is no student, there won’t be a need for a teacher too,” explains Joya.
Joya revisited the events of the day of the fall of Kabul when he was at the Abdul Haq square. “Everyone was running haphazardly, there was chaos all around. There were just two words on everyone’s mouth- Taliban’s here. I managed to find a vehicle for my wife and daughter and sent them home. I went to the educational center to pick up my necessary supplies. When I arrived, I saw that the gates of the academy had been closed. I went to square again to find a vehicle to ferry me home, however, even after waiting for two hours, no one came. I somehow managed to come back home,” he recounts.
When he got home, he met with the greatest shock of his life. While he was trying to reach home safely with all his documents, others around the country and his city, were trying to go to the airport to flee the Taliban’s regime.
“That was the moment which changed our life,” says Joya, adding that across the country things began to deteriorate. Both, his wife, who worked part-time at one of the government’s ministries, and he were left unemployed.
Like Joya, many others at different educational centers too, lost their jobs. Most believe that the reason for the stoppage of activities at these centers was the lack of students. And there were no students because the economic situation had been bad for families ever since the Taliban took over with rising unemployment and also because of the fear of persecution from the Taliban.
Joya explained that almost half of the students at schools had been girls and with the continuous ban on girls’ education, many schools and educational centers were left bankrupt, including those who worked there. Being the proud father of a daughter, Joya believes that girls should have their own right to wear what they feel like and not be bound by the decrees of the Taliban. “I, too, have faced this discrimination and Taliban officials have stopped me and asked me why I wear trousers and why I don’t sport a beard. I feel like I’m living in a prison,” adds Joya.
Clarifying that his situation had not been very good before too, but he somehow managed to get through life with hope. “After the fall of Kabul, as the provinces fell one after another and we witnessed our President leave us, we were left with an uncertain future,” said Joya. Before the fall, Ali Reza Joya earned an average of 20,000 to 30,000 Afghanis, which according to him was enough for three members of his family, but now he is worried about the high cost of living and food in the country.
He still continues to live in Afghanistan with the amount of his past savings, but he says that he cannot continue living like this because everyday life is becoming more difficult. “I am not the only one who is worried about our family and the future.
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Everyone in Afghanistan is in the same sinking ship. The unemployment rate is increasing every day and people are thinking about immigration- legally or illegally,” he said.
Joya too has thought a lot about leaving the country concerned about the future of his daughter and family. Claiming that he does have a zest for living life with security threats, but not under the Taliban regime.
As an educated individual, currently unemployed because of the Taliban’s policies, Joya believes that the group has not changed a bit since their first regime in the 1990s. “They don’t know or don’t want to understand that the future of Afghanistan depends on the people, and if these people, men and women, don’t study or work, nothing will change,” said Joya dismayed.