by Hosnia Mohseni
This story was published in partnership with Rukhshana Media and The Fuller Project.
Four days before the Taliban captured Kabul, I was with a pregnant friend who had fled to Kabul from the Taliban. We went to the women’s ward of Istiqlal Hospital for a check-up. That night, at five months pregnant, she lost her baby due to the tremendous psychological pressure she felt after the Taliban’s seizure of her city.
I was sitting next to her in the hospital, and I was closely following the news on social media when I suddenly read the news of the fall of Mazar-e-Sharif. I had lived in Mazar until two years ago; my family was still there. I frantically called my mother. “Mazar has fallen,” my mother said anxiously. My 16-year-old sister took the phone from my mother and asked me, “What will the Taliban do to me?” Hearing her shaking voice, I lost it. The sound of my cry echoed through the entire ward.
“The Taliban won’t do anything. They will not kill your sister,” the hospital staff said to me, trying to comfort me. But I cried for the death of my sister’s dreams. She had chosen to study medicine, and she was preparing for a prestigious scholarship to study in the U.K. That night, my friend and I cried in each other’s arms until dawn.
On Sunday, August 15, one hour before our president fled and the Taliban arrived in Kabul, my friend and I left the hospital. When we reached home, I saw my husband sitting in a corner. His eyes showed that he, too, had spent all night crying. The whole of that ominous Sunday was spent desperately following the news on social media.
I wanted to go outside, but my husband was worried. He said going out would only make me suffer more. But I could not tolerate staying at home. At around 7 pm we went to Pole Sorkh with my friends and my husband. Pole Sorkh was one of the areas in western Kabul where we would always go and have fun and to meet friends. But Pole Sorkh was not the same place as it had been just a few hours before. It had changed. The way men dressed and behaved had also changed. I saw a handful of women outside, with male family members, like us.
A man passing by me said, “Sister, go home before the Taliban see you.” We continued our way and returned home after buying some groceries. I cooked that night but none of us ate.
We all went to bed early. My husband lit his cigarette by the window, and we both cried, staring at the silence that had taken over Kabul. We both said, “This is not what our people deserve.”
I had lived in Kabul for two years, but I had never seen Kabul that heavy, quiet, and full of sorrow. Like the night before, we could not sleep because of our tears and the intense feeling of despair. In the silence, I reflected on the past 20 years of life experiences: going to cafes and hanging out with friends, Friday nights spent hiking, the fun trips we had to Bamiyan, Parwan, Panjshir, Kapisa… and all the rest that will now not be possible under the Taliban.
Twelve days after the Taliban came to Kabul, my husband and I, like thousands of others, were forced to flee Afghanistan. We left behind our home, families, friends, and a small library. Of everything we owned, we only took our laptops, hard drives, Kindle, a notebook, pen, and a set of clothes for myself and my husband. Around 9 pm, we left our house for Camp Baron (military airport entrance), and cried all the way. We faced so many people — about 5,000 — at Camp Baron and waited until about 9 am. I will not forget what I saw that night for the rest of my life. Men and women stood, overnight, in the middle of sewage water. Some had even fallen asleep there, they were so exhausted.
We lived under Taliban control for almost two weeks, and all that time, I tried not to give up. I would go out to take pictures and send them to my friends. By doing so, I was trying to tell my friends to not give up, and to carry on with their lives as before.
But after I witnessed the Taliban’s harsh treatment, and how they beat people in the streets, carried out random body searches, I had to decide to leave. The people of my city no longer smiled or wore colorful and brightly-colored clothing. You could no longer smell food and hear music from the restaurants. It was as if hope in our city had died.
We left Afghanistan with broken hearts and souls. We were evacuated with women who were the heads of organizations, who were the breadwinners of their families until a few weeks ago. Since the Taliban returned, they are now displaced and scattered across different corners of the world, all with tears in their eyes. All these women are broken from within.
During my seven years of working for women’s rights, I met and even made friends with women and girls from different parts of Afghanistan. Some of these girls call me “mother”. One of these girls told me that the Taliban had beaten her and her brother because of their clothes. They are disheartened by the situation and are living in despair. Some are even thinking of committing suicide. This is not what our people deserve.
Hosnia Mohseni, 30, is a youth activist and works at an NGO