Fighting for Rights; Buried in Ignorance

By: Mohammad Zaman Seerat

Nilofar, a fifteen-year-old girl, is a resident of Barchi in thirteenth district of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. Before the Taliban’s arrival, she and her brother were attending school at Bamyan Central High School in order to build a future for themselves, but her relatively peaceful life was taken away from her on August 15, 2021. On that day, all women were deprived of their rights, including the right to education for girls and the right to work outside the home for women. She spoke bitterly about her experiences, saying, “When the city of Bamyan was taken [by the Taliban] on August 15, 2021, I felt like all my hopes and dreams had suddenly been crushed and, like me, all my classmates were completely devastated. I lost my enthusiasm on the first day. I was in shock for four days and nights. My hopes only survived for four days and nights. In one day, I buried my hopes and dreams of going to school, going out, hanging out with my classmates and friends, and all my freedom three days later.” She was surprised that she and one of her friends had gone to buy groceries for the home on the second day of the Taliban’s arrival, which she considered a miracle. She said, “My only hope for survival is to be able to go to school again someday.” As a student, she is facing a difficult life. During the years of suicide bombings and explosions, the decrease in hope and wishes, the reduction in their share in educational institutions (National Examination Quota Plan), the lack of sufficient educational facilities, and the difficult winter routes have made life difficult for her and her sole hope for the future (going to school). She could not simply resign herself to eating bread with despair in the corner of the house, as the environment did not allow her to do other things. Nilofar wants to study and serve her people. She said, “There is no clean water, no adequate government electricity, no proper roads, and no standard clinic to solve people’s problems in our village. There is no open school for girls to study in, and in addition to all of these, there are security challenges too.”

Nilofar, who had been trapped and struggling to survive after falling into a deep chasm of disparity and attempting to find a way out, decided to continue her education in secret with her friends. After much effort, a training center agreed to their plan. Nilofar and some of her classmates began their clandestine education at a training center in Bamyan province, entering without being seen and studying English language and school subjects. However, after a few months, the Taliban militants became aware of the girls’ movements to the center and began to create terror and fear, shutting down the center, dispersing the students, and threatening the female students not to leave their homes again. They took the center’s teachers and officials with them. Following this incident, all of Nilofar’s friends became confined to their homes.

Nilofar, feeling hopeless about the educational prospects in her area, was reluctantly compelled to join the thousands of other families who had to leave for Kabul, filled with resentment and disappointment.

Nilofar was living in a house without walls, water, electricity, and an hour’s walk from school in the center of Bamyan province. On December 7, 2022, she came to the capital in the hope of finding a means of survival and escaping the difficult circumstances of her hometown. Unfortunately, the situation in the capital was worse than she had expected, and she was forced to remain in the corner of her house day and night, far from her only wish of attending school and working alongside her mother. To make ends meet, Nilofar began to weave carpets, but after a while, she developed severe back pain that even prevented her from moving.

Nilofar began carpet weaving to assist her elderly parents, who labor on the roads all day to provide for their family. As she was inexperienced, she sustained multiple cuts on her hands and now suffers from back pain. She always carries her books, notebooks, and pen with her, and sometimes even reads and writes while weaving carpets.

Nilofar is not alone in her struggles with poverty and hardship; there are thousands of women and girls in Afghanistan who are unable to experience the freedom of a better life. Despite the billions of dollars in aid that have been given to the Afghan people, there has been no improvement in the economic situation and the plight of Afghan women, and poverty continues to worsen.

In reference to the Taliban leaders and group, Nilofar quotes Karl Marx: “When politicians are in agreement, they rob us of our possessions; when they are in disagreement, they rob us of our lives.” She then goes on to state that Afghan women must save themselves, and anyone who claims to be their savior is misleading them. She expresses her disbelief that the Taliban now have control of Afghanistan, as they have taken the lives of thousands of their fellow citizens for years and are creating more fear than the coronavirus, trapping people in their own coronavirus-related behaviors.