‘I was a policewoman. Now I beg in the street’: life for Afghan women one year after the Taliban took power

A year ago, the The Taliban entered AfghanistanTaking control of the country amid the chaos of the withdrawal of US and UK troops.

Now the lives of women across the country have changed fundamentally, their rights have been curtailed and their freedoms restricted. Campaigners call the Taliban’s orders to deny women education, Fire them from their jobs and bring them back under the veil”Gender apartheid

Over the past month, Rukhshana Media He shared his experiences of living under Taliban rule with women across the country.

Hijab Order

Match, Kabul
I was walking home alone when I turned down a deserted alley and found two The Taliban With a gun on their shoulder. They shouted that I was a prostitute because I was uncovered and demanded to know why I was not wearing a hijab. They pointed their guns in my face and one of them had his finger on the trigger. I lowered my head and said: “It won’t happen again.” When I came home, I sat and cried for an hour. I said to myself: This is a warning of what is to come. Since then I fell into a deep depression. I can’t bear to see all my colorful clothes in my closet because they remind me of everything I’ve lost.

Zahra, West Kabul
After the Hijab order announced, I was captured by Taliban soldiers. They asked why I did not wear hijab and although I had no intention of following their orders, I apologized and thought they would let me go. But they visited my home and told my family that the next time I was caught in public, I would be arrested. Since then, my father has rarely allowed me or my sisters to leave the house and says we cannot go to university. Now even my brothers know what I wear and where I go.

An Afghan woman walks through the old market as a Taliban fighter stands guard in downtown Kabul on May 3, 2022. Photo: Ibrahim Norouji/AP

With travel restrictions

Jarlsht, accept
In June, I was traveling with my brother and we were stopped by Taliban fighters at a checkpoint. First, they asked us separately to understand if we are related to each other, then they asked for our national identity cards. When my brother said that we did not carry our identity cards with us, he got angry and one of them hit him with a rifle and was about to open fire. We were kept there for two hours and then we had to call our families to bring ID so we could return home. Since then I don’t dare to leave the house.

University students

patience, Bamyan Province
We are being forced to wear black hijab to get admission in university even though it is not compulsory. Once we are inside, the women are under constant surveillance. Hijab instructions are on the doors and walls. I never imagined that one day all the students in Bamiyan would have to live like this. I can’t believe what life is changing here.

Islamic State attacks

Assassins, West Kabul
My friend and I were chatting on the bus on the way to work Hazara Shia West Kabul neighborhood when suddenly the world around us exploded. We found ourselves in the middle of a carnage. Security has deteriorated since the Taliban took over and our bus has been bombed by IS militants. We later learned that many people had been killed. I was injured in my leg and chest and my friend in her right leg. Everything changed for me when the bomb fell. After the Taliban took over, things were difficult but I continued my work and determined to live bravely. Now after this attack I live in constant fear. The pain from my injuries is excruciating. I’ve had five surgeries and can’t go to the bathroom or get dressed without help. But the psychological wounds are also deep. I have to drive through the place where the bomb exploded to go to my doctor’s appointment and every time I feel the shaking of the vehicle, the heat of the explosion and the sound of people screaming. When I try to sleep, it keeps popping up in front of my eyes.

'I dare not leave the house.'
‘I dare not leave the house.’
Photo: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters


Sakina, Kandahar
Life has not been easy for a long time. I lost my husband in an airstrike five years ago, and before the Taliban took over, I worked and sold street food to support my children. Now I am not allowed to work. The Taliban gave me and other widows a sack of wheat, three liters of cooking oil and a card to claim 1,000 Afghanis. [£9] Every three months, but this is not enough to keep our family going. I live with three other widows and their children, but our rent is 40,000 afghanis a month and we cannot afford it. If we can’t work, I’m afraid we’ll starve.

Mariam, ex-policewoman, location protected
I worked as a police officer until the Taliban came to power. My husband had died but I could support my two daughters on my police salary, give them everything they needed. Now I’m out of a job and the Taliban are hunting women who work in the security services. I am still afraid that they will find me. For the past seven months, I have reduced my daughters’ street begging to feed them. I sit in the streets all day under a veil so that no one recognizes me and informs me. I do not recognize who I have become. One day, two boys threw some coins at me and one said I was a prostitute. After buying only two loaves of bread for my children, I went home and cried all night.

Girls studying at a secret school in an undisclosed location in Afghanistan on July 24, 2022.
Girls studying at a secret school in an undisclosed location in Afghanistan on July 24, 2022. Photo: Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP/Getty Images


Mah Liqa, 14, location protected
When I was told that I was not allowed to go to school, I was depressed and had no motivation to work and study at home. But I kept telling myself that I want to keep moving forward for a better future and my dreams. I have to find ways to continue learning even when girls are banned from going to school. So now every day I study English at home so that I can apply for scholarships and maybe study computer science abroad for a few days. I am still trying to achieve something for myself.

Sameera, 18, location protected
I should be in 12th but I am not allowed to go to school. After the Taliban took over, I decided to turn the challenge into an opportunity, so now I buy raw materials like beads and fabric from the market and sell them to women who make traditional clothes in their homes. I have earned some money, and now if the situation improves I want to use it to start my own factory. I am proud that I can help my family now.

cultural life

Khatera, Artist, under surveillance
I have devoted more than half of my life as an artist to creating traditional wood carvings and designs. I was the only female engraver in my region and produced over 1,000 works of art. Making art has been a dangerous job since the Taliban came to power. Being a woman and an artist is even more dangerous. The Taliban said I could continue my digging, but I knew it was impossible. I’m self-censoring because I don’t feel safe. I used to carve faces and figures but now I mainly print verses of the Holy Quran on wood. I have to find another way to live and forget art. I used to spend every day in my studio but now I go back every month or two to dust off my engraving and tools. I have auctioned off most of my equipment and my friends are advising me to leave Afghanistan. My Iranian clients ask me to go to Iran, where my work will be appreciated. But I tell them: I will stay in Afghanistan, one day the situation may change.

A group of Afghan women in Kabul set up a book stall to promote a culture of reading on 25 May 2022.
A group of Afghan women in Kabul set up a book stall to promote a culture of reading on 25 May 2022. Photo: EPA

Book Club

Bahrah, Herat
In dark moments and with no hope, we try to find a path that can never be closed and that is the path of books. I come from a family of poets and writers and have a master’s degree. Two months into the Taliban regime in Herat, four friends and I decided to form a book club. The first book we chose was the Persian translation the clown, A 1963 novel by German author Heinrich Ball. We hold our meetings in secret, but soon others find out what we are doing. Now we have more than 40 members from all fields and we discuss on Telegram. Some of us try to meet every two weeks to discuss and critique world literature. We choose books that are available to us in Afghanistan but also tell us something about the world more broadly, about how much women have suffered through history – what they did to make those days bearable. We also read books written by people who lived through World War II, because we can all identify with those survivors. It is a struggle to keep the spirit of the women of Herat alive. These book club meetings have become our refuge.

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