On my way to the university, clad in a long black robe that reached my ankles, a black chador, a black mask, and hair all concealed beneath the folds of that chador, I moved forward. I passed through streets where the gathering of adults was scarce, and the sounds of children were abundant, finally reaching the main road. Just like always, fear and anxiety about street harassment and the eyes that undressed me from head to toe gripped my soul. I walked a few steps further on that side when several men, their eyes filled with malice and filth, once again directed their leer at me. I felt tormented by their wicked gazes. As I walked past them, the familiar sounds reached my ears. I didn’t know what they said to each other, but those tormenting voices wearied my tired soul with each encounter. In my country, women suffer more from psychological torture than physical torture. Their delicate souls are imprisoned in a cage. I continued on my path, but I was inwardly entangled, grinding my teeth and clenching my fists tightly. Just like that, I talked to myself about the helplessness of women and, with a heavy heart, mourned my fate and that of all the girls. I passed by a dog lying in a corner of the long street, its tongue extended a meter and wagging. In my heart, I cried out, saying that this very dog had more dignity than some people. This is Kabul, and this is my eternal story. I always crossed these bustling streets of Kabul with fear, striving to reach the university.
Being a woman here is the most challenging task. They torment your soul here. They set your heart on fire with their stares and ugly words. Women are deprived of their most fundamental rights. They are denied permission to travel and to be joyful. Using religion as an excuse, they confine women to the corners of their homes and isolate them from society. They use the veil as a pretext and won’t let you step outside your house. Here, the way women dress is more important and controversial than anything else. Men here are fearful of the colors women wear. They say, “Be dressed in black from head to toe, and you will obtain your rights.” We did that and became clad in black, but it made no difference to our situation; we became even more restricted and found no escape. Here, it doesn’t matter whether you wear a full veil or not. You just need to be the second gender. Here, tormentors are abundant, ready to crush you from within.
On my way back from the university, I had to navigate through crowded and bustling streets to safely reach the other side of the road. I stood waiting for the cars to pass one by one so I could make my way across. The road became a bit less crowded, and I decided to take a step forward. As I was crossing, I suddenly collided with something, sending a chill through my entire body. By the time I regained my composure, the vehicle had already sped past. I had clung tightly to myself to avoid falling to the ground, but my legs gave way, and I lost the strength to hold myself up. I fell to the ground, and at that moment, a wave of resentment washed over me towards the towering wall that had hit me.
Who was behind the wheel? A donkey, a cow, or a dog? I thought to myself that I was disrespecting animals. I kept my mouth shut and didn’t turn back to look at what was behind me. I knew they had deliberately hit me with their vehicle because this incident was neither the first nor the last; it was something I encountered every day. Either they hit me with their cars, touched my body with their hands, collided with me forcefully using their shoulders, or tormented me with their stares and words. It’s at these times they cry out for Islam and consider women the source of corruption in society.
I remained in the middle of the street, grief-stricken. My tears fell from my eyes onto my face like raindrops, and from my face onto my hands. I managed to get up, dragging myself from the middle of the street to the other side. My spirit was wounded. Both my soul and body were in pain, but my spirit had suffered more because my body would heal after each unpleasant collision, while my soul remained unhealed.
My body ached so much that in my heart, I wished the cursed car’s dark tires would either obliterate me or hit me hard enough to propel me to the other side of the street at full speed. Perhaps by dying, I could also sentence the driver who occasionally struck me with the impact of his car and at other times with his words to execution. But my desire was merely a fleeting thought, and I didn’t believe that such an event would occur because I live in a land where its rulers are hostile to women and pay no heed to women’s words. The new governance and its structure belong to men, and women have no place or worth within it. If I were to be obliterated by the dark tires of that car, perhaps no one would reprimand the driver, or maybe they would say, “What’s the need for a woman to leave her house?” Unjustly, we don’t claim that the home is the safest place for women. Women must stay at home to stay alive. Perhaps their verdict regarding me and that man was just the same.
I swallowed my pains, refraining from shedding tears because I wasn’t weak. I carried my wounded spirit and weary body home with a heart full of tears. Oh, how painful it is to be weak and be called weak; a pain that Afghan women and girls endure every day. The Taliban group places no value on women and doesn’t want women’s presence in society at all. This group is trying to erase women from society entirely, which is why they suppress women on any pretext. Now, they have taken the same winding road to the university away from me and the other girls. Truly, being a girl and a woman in Afghanistan requires courage.