By Maryam Mursal
Monisa Rezaee, 35, has taught literacy for the past 15 years. But last week she lost her job when her $80-a-month salary was cut in half. This sudden loss of income meant she was no longer able to pay off her brother, who had demanded money in return for his permission to allow her to work.
Rezaee, who asked that a pseudonym be used out of security fears, lives with her mother and brother, in Herat city, in the west of the country. Without money to pay her brother, and with the Taliban’s restrictions on women’s employment, last week she was forced to say goodbye to her beloved career.
On Tuesday, October 5, almost two months since the Taliban took over Afghanistan, she went to her classroom. There, she wrote the subject she teaches on the blackboard: “Dari, lesson 8”.
The students sensed something was different.
Rezaee searched her mind for the right words to tell her students that she was leaving. The conversation she had with her brother kept returning to her. “Now it is not acceptable for you to work,” he had told her. “People will laugh at me and say, ‘you can’t pay for your mother and sister’”, he told her, afraid he would be made to feel ashamed for having a female earner in the family.
“Now, the Taliban are here,” she remembers her brother saying. “It is better for women to stay at home.”
Turning to face her students, Rezaee said: “Today, I am not here to teach, I am here to say goodbye. You will have another teacher, and I might not come to school for a while.”
Her students, saddened by the information, pleaded with her to stay. “Teacher, can you not leave?”
Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, many women like Rezaee have lost their jobs and social identity. Although the Taliban claim their ban on women’s education and work were temporary, more than a month has passed since they formed an all-male government, and no new policy on women’s rights has been announced.