With the last batch of the US troops gone from Afghanistan on Tuesday and the evacuation process over, women are being forced to make heartbreaking personal choices to be able to survive under the ultra-religious and conservative Taliban regime.
Despite tall claims of a progressive rule by the Taliban, women are burning their clothes of which the extremist regime would likely disapprove, men are growing back beards, schools and universities are preparing to segregate classes and offices are sacking female employees.
“My 10-year-old daughter hasn’t gone to school in last two weeks,” a former government employee who wished to remain unnamed told The Independent. “They are not welcome in the school at this point. The principal told us to not send her.”
“The school says they have to make arrangements to divide the class between girls and boys,” he added.
The 50-year-old man said his family left their ancestral home in Kabul and moved to a remote area where they feel safer.
“There are no women on the streets now. Even if you see anyone, they’ll be fully covered in a burqa,” he said, as he worried that his daughter may also have to wear a burqa to be able to go to school.
“In all these years in Kabul, I could live without a burqa. But now I have bought one. It’s better to be prepared,” a 23-year-old medical student, who is unclear about her professional and personal future, told The Independent. “We are all just waiting to find out what the new rules are. But at this point, everyone is in darkness.”
“I have been crying since this morning. My brother went out and bought me a burqa, I burned my jeans today. I was crying and burning them, I burned my hopes with them. Nothing will make me happy anymore. I am just waiting for my death, I do not want this life anymore,” Arifa Ahmadi, a local resident, told The Guardian.
Ms Ahmadi also lost the job she joined a few weeks ago after years of hard work. “I tried a lot to get a job in a customs office in Farah and I got that. I celebrated it with my friends. I invited them to my home. We were very happy,” Ahmadi told the Guardian. “But I lost it only after three weeks. Many of women were asked by the Taliban to leave the office. As I looked at the situation, I didn’t even try to go back.”
She added: “A man with a long beard is sitting on my chair now.”
“We lost our freedom and also whatever little sense of security that we felt under the Ashraf Ghani government before the Taliban rule. As an Afghan woman, I can only sense insecurity, devastation and hopelessness. There is no hope for better days,” a former female government employee told This Week In Asia.
While the new ways of the country are particularly grim for women, men also have had to incorporate changes in their lives.
“I decided to let my beard grow and wear Afghan traditional clothes as the first precautionary measure to avoid their threat,” Jabar Rahmani, a resident of the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif told The Guardian.
Thousands of Afghans have already fled, fearing Taliban reprisals. More than 123,000 people were evacuated from Kabul in a massive but chaotic airlift by the United States and allies over the past two weeks, but tens of thousands who wanted to leave are still left behind.