Since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, I have been fighting alongside a group of women against this terrorist and misogynistic organization for the rights of Afghan women. The starting point of raising my voice openly dates back to August 13, 2022. At that time, my colleagues and I began protesting in front of the Ministry of Education. It didn’t take long for the Taliban to try to suppress our protest. They opened fire on us, dispersing all the girls. I and 11 of my peers sought shelter in a room inside a medicine depot. The Taliban pursued us and held us hostage for three hours. They came in groups, seeing us. Journalists were aware of this hostage situation, and they had gathered there as well. Perhaps their presence influenced some Taliban members who said, “Let them go, so it doesn’t become a bigger headache,” while others insisted, “They must be killed; all our problems stem from these women.” That day, I thought it was my last day of life, and I was at peace with having taken my final breaths on the path to freedom. More than three hours had passed since our hostage-taking when a group of tall, fully dark-veiled women from the Taliban’s intelligence arrived. They inspected our mobile phones, subjected us to a rigorous body search, and recorded our details. Any protest was met with death threats.
Every time we’ve raised our voices for justice, not only have they silenced us, but they’ve also torn our bodies apart. When the Kaaj Educational Training Center incident occurred and our youth were torn into pieces while hundreds of families mourned, I was losing my patience and decided to continue the fight with the same voice. Before our protest, we went to a blood donation center with some girls, but they dragged us away and didn’t allow us to donate blood. We walked a few steps and reached an area where the sound of a mother’s lament reached our ears. We wanted to approach her for solace and sympathy, but at one point, the mother’s voice grew loud, saying, “Because of you, we’ve lost one of our children. Do you want to lead others to their death? Go away.” At that moment, I felt that it wasn’t just us, but all the people who had been taken hostage, as if people, out of fear for their lives, dared not raise their voices.
One night, we decided to protest the following day. We hit the road and started our campaign from the Pul-e Khoshk area in Dasht-e Barchi. Unexpectedly, the Taliban intercepted us. This time, they didn’t hold back and subjected us to brutal physical violence. Their blows were so severe that even after months, the pain and scars have not left our bodies. They lashed us and hurled insulting words at us and our families. I remember one of them, consumed with anger, shouted, “Do you have no families? What kind of a family would allow you to step onto the streets?” These words didn’t weaken us but rather fueled our determination in the path of our struggle.
Every day, the Taliban attempted to abduct and secretly murder women using various methods. Some girls have been missing for days, and suddenly, we hear that they’ve fallen into the hands of the Taliban. What have we done wrong? What is our sin? Aren’t women the children of this homeland, who find themselves in this dire situation today? My heart aches that our voices go unheard. Why do the people of Afghanistan remain silent? Why, when we protested, did they not stand with us? They should raise their voices for themselves, not for us. My heart aches that people behave as if everything is in its place, content with the saying, “Whoever the king, we are his subjects.” How can we forget the day when our girls were denied entry to schools? How can we so easily forget these years of suicide and explosions? I haven’t forgotten the day when, in a maternity ward, the Taliban exploded themselves, leaving dozens of lifeless children and mothers. How do others forget?
We raised our voices in protest for “bread, work, and freedom.” What does the international community do for us? They wait for the Taliban to comply with their demands and be ready for dialogue. What does that mean? It’s as if our cries and demands don’t matter. We are the ones who need to be heard, not the Taliban. For several days now, Julia Parsi and Neda Parwani have been held in Taliban prisons, and we have no information about their well-being. Why is nothing being done for them? We, the protesting women, are the stifled voices of the Afghan people, and the people should stand with the protesting women. Perhaps for those who spend the night with peace under their roof, it doesn’t matter whether a few protesting women die or are tortured. But I’m suffocating; my throat hurts, and my heart is breaking into pieces. Despite all this, I won’t stop protesting, and I’ll lay my life down for freedom.
Note: The author has written this account in the words of Mrs. Habibi, one of the protesting women.