By M. Mursal
Five days before the Taliban took over the western city of Herat, Masooda Ahmadi* was fired from a television show she starred in since 2015.
In a popular satire show that provided social and political critic of Afghan society, broadcasted in a local television channel Ahmadi has been a familiar face in the past six years. She played the role of a mother, a wife, an aunt, a sister.
“The show is canceled because the Islamic Emirate is coming and [that means] we can’t continue our work,” the 55-year-old Ahmadi remembers her boss telling her the day she was fired.
When the Taliban took over the country in mid-August, they started imposing restrictions on women’s rights. Banning the broadcast of movies with women actors is one of the restrictions the extremist group imposed in some parts of the country. In mid-December, the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee (AJSC) confirmed the Taliban had banned the broadcast of women’s voices and faces on radio and television in the northeastern province of Takhar.
For Ahmadi, that means the end of a 15-year-old career.
The first time Taliban ruled over Afghanistan in the 1996 to 2001, they banned television and music and almost all forms of art. Women, too, were banned from school and employment.
When their regime was toppled by the US-led coalition in October 2001, radios and televisions popped up in almost every corner of the country. Music and art became an integral part of urban life for a generation who grew up in the shadow of a western supported democracy.
Women became singers and actresses and played their role in all aspects of social life despite the distrust and disgrace Afghan society held against them.
To become an actress at age 40, Ahmadi, mother of six, stood to her husband, to her family, to her in-laws and to a society that scorned her choice of career. “My family deserted me, but I didn’t care. I continued my work [as an actress]. But I suffered a lot,” she told Rukhshana Media in a phone interview.
Until four months ago, she was a breadwinner for her paralyzed husband and a young daughter. With five of her children married and having their own families, Ahmadi was saving parts of her 7000 Afghani ($67USD) per month salary.
With the Taliban’s ban on women actors, and no prospect of future employment, she is running out of funds.
“I sold things like plates, rugs, pans and anything else that had a value. I got around $20 and I don’t know what to sell next,” said the woman who played roles in around 50 films, theatres, and television serials over the span of 15 years.
“I can’t believe everything ended so fast,” she added. “Every morning I wake up with a hope that the Taliban are gone.”
*Pseudonym has been used to protect her identity.