By Laila Yousufy
Since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, over three months ago, Bahar Mohammadi* is living in constant fear. With each knock on the front door, she thinks it is the Taliban coming for her as they did for Negar, a pregnant, former policewoman in central Ghor province, who was killed three weeks after the Taliban came to power. She was brutally killed in front of her children.
“It is painful to imagine my death in front of my family’s eyes,” the 25-year-old former Afghan National Army officer told Rukhshana Media in a phone interview.
To work in the army, she stood up to her father. When she went to Turkey for a six-month training course for the security forces, her father refused to talk to her. “My father was against my decision to join the army. He would say what a girl has to do with the police, military, and weapons. But I joined anyway,” Mohammadi said, adding how uneasy she feels putting her family in danger by choosing to join the army.
Amid the news of increasing threats to former female military officers in Afghanistan, some of whom have been found dead since the Taliban returned to power, the economic crisis also took a toll on the lives of these women who now lost their source of income and have turned into fugitives.
Mohammadi and her two sisters who were the breadwinners of their family of ten until August 15, are now jobless. Her elderly father is too old to find a job and her brothers are too young to work. She doesn’t know how her family can survive. “Now, I can’t work outside the home. I can’t walk freely. These days, my life is like a prisoner,” she said.
Marzia Mohibi*, a former policewoman in the western province of Herat is terrified of being caught by the Taliban. When the city fell to the Taliban, she fled to Kabul with her family.
The 28-year-old, mother of two, now worries for the future of her family. “I tried many ways to get out of the country, but it didn’t work. And now, I don’t have money to go out on my own,” she said.
“I am in hiding, even my parents don’t know where I am living,” Mohibi said, adding she has received suspicious calls from people who ask for her address.
In the past six months, at least five female police officers have been killed in Kandahar, Kapisa, Ghazni, and Ghor provinces, but no one has been arrested in relation to their murders.
When the Taliban were accused of killing Negar, the pregnant policewoman in Ghor province, they denied having a role in her brutal killing, but they promised to investigate her death. Almost three months have passed since her murder, but her family is still looking for answers.
There are also reports about activists and policewomen going missing, among them Major Alia Arefi, the 45-year-old director of the women’s prison in Herat who has been missing since September 29.
On November 6, Rukhshana Media reported on the death of a 29-year-old activist and university lecturer, Frozan Safi, the first known death of a women’s rights defender since the Taliban swept to power almost three months ago. Her family found her bullet-ridden body in a morgue in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, Balkh provincial capital in late October.
*The names of interviewees have been changed to protect their identity.