By: Sherin Yousfi
After years of excruciating work to put his five daughters through school and university, Mohammad Naeem says the Taliban restrictions on women and girls are a bitter pill to swallow.
“I don’t know what is the sin of these girls. We are devasted!” he exclaims,
Selling potatoes for most of his 55 years, Mr Naeem says all the hope in his life was in a bright future for his daughters. Neither he nor his wife were able to go to school because of civil wars. They moved from Bamyan to Kabul over ten years ago for a better life for their children’s higher studies. They also have two sons. But now Mr Naeem says the Taliban has upended their dreams, and the family will instead try and leave Afghanistan.
“Every year, I used to go to Bamyan to work as a farmer, and my daughters studied in Kabul with their brothers,” Mr. Naeem says. But then his daughters were able to get their own jobs.
“It had been two years since my daughters had stood on their own feet, and I did not go to Bamyan. Besides studying, three of my daughters were also working and our life was going relatively well when the Taliban blocked everything,” he says. “There is no place left to live. Everything is closed to people; No lessons, no work, no freedom, no bread. We have to go.”
Fawzia, 25, is the eldest daughter of Mohammad Naeem. She was a teacher in a private school in west Kabul before the Taliban order closing schools for girls, and then universities for women. The decrees took away her job and ruined all her future plans. She had wanted to do a master’s degree in international relations.
Salma and Marzia, other daughters of Mohammad Naeem, are both second and third-year students at Kabul University.
Salma, a computer science student, says, “These days are really a nightmare for our family. I and all my sisters are homebound. Instead of taking up pens and books, we have to pick up a needle and embroider and weave so that we don’t die of hunger. Three of us five sisters were teaching in the language and tuition centers along with the lessons we were studying, and so we were able to afford the expenses of the house. But now we are wondering what to do.”
Mr. Naeem says that none of his family members have passports. They had never needed one because he’s never before wanted to leave Afghanistan. He says that since the closing of the universities, he has been talking to his family every night about the ways they can leave. So far, he has talked twice with the brokers of the passport office in order to get passports for himself and his family, but these attempts have so far been unsuccessful. He has not ruled out paying a smuggler.
‘Every time I look at my daughters, I feel disappointed’
“When my daughters can’t study, can’t work, and can’t go out, what hope can I have?” he asks. “My daughters’ education is as important as my sons’ education. Every time I look at my daughters, I feel disappointed.”
“The Taliban have left no choice for people but to leave the country,” he says. “After their ban on girls’ education, I know a number of families who have taken the path of migration for their daughter’s future.”
A number of these families in interviews with Rukhshana Media say that they do not want their children experiencing a fate similar to the first Taliban rule and stop all education, like the mothers of some families.
Betool, 38, has a son and three daughters in the third, eighth, and eleventh grades. All three girls have stopped going to school since the Taliban also banned primary school for girls. Betool herself was not able to study during the first rule of the Taliban and is worried about the future of her daughter’s education. She wants to leave the country for the future of her daughters’ education.
“Until the universities were closed, I was hoping that the Taliban would not be so strict, but the situation is only getting worse every day,” she says. “Every day there’s a new limit, every day a new decree. I can’t sleep at night because of the future of my daughters. I am really afraid that they will remain illiterate.”
“I don’t want my daughters to be just housewives,” she adds. “They must become someone for themselves.”
These days Betool and her family are trying to get visas for Iran or Pakistan so that maybe her daughters can study and continue their education there. She and her family have applied for a Pakistani visa and say they will take the illegal route if their visas are denied.
Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, the country has witnessed a new wave of migration. But there are no official numbers. However, it’s clear that in the past year, thousands of people have continually left Afghanistan.
Guljan, 24, is a third-year student of economics at a private university in Kabul. She says that her family has decided to leave the country since the Taliban banned girls from university. Her two sisters have also been banned from going to school.
“My mother was not able to study in the Taliban’s first rule in the 1990s, and we are worried that all of us will become unlucky. These days we are preparing to go to Iran so that we might have a better life there,” she says.
Guljan adds that her family has spent a lot of money to get a visa to Iran and will leave the country as soon as they can.
Many families want to leave the country but because they either cannot afford a visa or will not be granted one, they have decided to take the path of illegal immigration.
Maryam, 41, a Kabul resident, also sacrificed a lot for her daughters to have an education. One daughter is in first year university and the other is in the ninth grade at high school. Both have been deprived of studying. She wants to illegally immigrate to Iran and plans to sell all their household goods to make it there.
“The money from the sale of my household items is not enough to get us to Iran, but we still have no choice,” she says. “I feel sorry for my daughters who missed school. We have to find a solution for their future. I endured so many hardships because for my daughters’ studies, but for now, everything was for nothing. At night, I embroidered and weaved carpets so that my daughters could study, but the Taliban turned all our efforts to zero.”
Maryam adds that they are in a hurry to leave and so she has been trying to sell their home goods quickly.
“They don’t even buy the furniture for half the price, even though it is new, but I have to sell it,” Maryam says. “At least the money can get us somewhere. I had bought my house belongings with great enthusiasm and hope. Now that I am selling the, I feel very bad. I feel that by selling each of my household items, I am selling a part of my home’s memories.”