The only library for women and run by women in Kabul has been forced to close due to increasingly oppressive restrictions on women’s lives under Taliban rule in Afghanistan, the library founder Laila Basim said.
Mrs Basim told Rukhshana Media that they had been trying to find ways to work around the problems Taliban authorities were setting up for them, but she finally conceded defeat.
“Although the library had already suspended operations for two months due to all the restrictions and pressure from the Taliban,” Mrs Basim said. “But today, it’s officially closed.”
“We emptied the shelves, locked the gate, and brought the books home,” she said. “Unfortunately, in the days when the death knell of knowledge is tolling everywhere and our land has plunged into darkness, another of the hopes of enlightenment has been extinguished in Kabul and in Pol-e-Sorkh area, which was once the center of cultural gatherings and reading books.”
The special library only opened its doors six months ago with the goal of promoting reading and raising resources for women. During this time, they always tried to keep the lights on and the interest alive. But ultimately the pressure – both official and unofficial – became too much and the library had to close.
Mrs Basim said the main factor was the Taliban’s decrees restricting women and girls in all sorts of endeavors including education and work.
“Taliban forces have raided the women’s library at least twice already and sealed its doors. For the past two months, it has been heavily monitored by the Taliban,” she said.
The library had opened through a massive effort of women in Kabul and the support of women abroad. “These brave women took their bread money and spent it on making the library. Despite all this, the restrictions do not allow us to continue our services.”
Mrs Basim added that the library was not just a place to loan books, but it had also become a safe place to meet and to share their struggles at a time when women are mostly homebound and are key targets of Taliban ideology.
The library used to attract all manner of women including former school and university students who could no longer attend classes, and women who used to work in offices and NGOs but who were no longer allowed to work.
There had been rumors and hopes that the Taliban would lift the ban on girls education above grade six, but instead the ban was reiterated at the start of the academic year, further plunging many girls and women into despair.