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  • Massih Mangal and Andrew Rupp

Life Under the Taliban - One Woman's Voice

Updated: Feb 7, 2022

The following interview shares one woman’s narrative of Afghan life under Taliban rule.

To help her story reach a wider audience, we are publishing this interview in English and Farsi, with a French translation coming soon.

Final notes; names are not used for safety reasons and some stories may be alarming or upsetting to some readers.

Q: What does the world need to know about what’s happening in Afghanistan?

A: Very good question. Technology and tools like social media have made the world a small place. News and information about the world is transmitted and accessed within few seconds from one part of the globe to all parts of it. Perhaps those who are involved in social and political issues are fully aware of what is happening and developing in our country.

The current situation of the Afghan people cannot be described in a few lines. Most are aware of the dismal, oppressed situation that the people of Afghanistan are facing. With all that is happening, I will try to summarize the situation in few important points.

First of all, the people of Afghanistan are deprived all immediate and basic services. Most Afghans don’t even have food to eat; in the harsh and cold winter of Afghanistan people don’t have sources of energy or even wood to warm their homes. Further, people don’t have jobs. There is no income or money to buy medicine for themselves or their sick children.

Due to the current situation children are without proper school and education. Mothers and fathers are without jobs and are staying at home, while people who do not have a home are living in doorless, makeshift tents spending their days and nights merely surviving.

People in Afghanistan endure pitiless lives. Other than labor jobs, some are selling their children and even their organs. These people are doing everything they can just to be able to buy a piece of bread to feed their hungry children.

Others beg on the streets. Even educated people are out on the street selling whatever they can to make a living. I know former government employees who are doing day labor (digging) in exchange for some grains of wheat. The present state is incredibly difficult for people to make a living.

People here are in a panic situation. When you leave the house, guards (terrorists who are led by terrorist leaders) search you, ask you all kinds of questions about your whereabouts and even search your mobile phone.

Q: What’s the general perception regarding current policy/policies in Afghanistan?

A: When policies are designed, they exist to resolve an issue or problem. Unfortunately, the polices that are made by the Taliban are problematic themselves. Women, half of society, are deprived of perusing education and work. The Taliban, by imposing such policies, have nullified half of society while placing a burden on the other half (men).

There is agreement regarding the public perception of the Taliban’s policies in Afghanistan. Since girls are barred from going to school and women from going to work, open-minded people of Afghanistan are disgusted by these kinds of policies that are imposed. Unfortunately, due to the level of oppression on us, we have no other solution but to stay quiet and watch what they do.

For government posts, the Taliban appoints people who are uneducated, or those who have studied in religious seminaries. Everyone knows better, a government employee should have certain qualification(s) and expertise for the government to function properly. For example, if an engineer is needed, it is absurd to assign a Mullah or a semi-Mullah to the position as specialization is required.

Recently, there have been reports showing how China is involved in mineral mining operations here in Afghanistan. These kinds of operations require contract specialists to make deals, so there is no way a Mullah or Mawlawi (someone who studied in seminaries) can implement mining contracts that will benefit Afghans. Sadly, there are many examples like this.

I am resentful because I spent day and night studying hard to achieve my master’s degree. I hoped to serve and work for the growth and development of my country. Now I am only a homemaker, staying at home due to what is happening in Afghanistan.

My husband is now without a job, and he stays at home. There is no source of income for us. My children are left without proper education because they cannot go to school. Life is very difficult for me, and I endure a lot of stress, because I have no choice but to endure.

Q: How has Taliban rule changed your way of life?

A: The advent of the Taliban has negatively affected all aspects of my life; financial, physical, spiritual, social, etc.

Before this happened, my husband and I had jobs. We worked and paid taxes to the government while our children were studying and perusing their education. We were also helping poor families while also paying salaries for others who worked for us. Even though the situation in Afghanistan wasn’t always good, we still made a good living.

Now, my husband and I are unemployed. Our children are at home without school and education. We can’t even afford to sustain this life; we are at the mercy of monetary assistance from our families abroad and spend our lives in a hopeless situation. We have been hit financially as well as socially, and we constantly are dealing with psychological and mental traumas. This is each and every day.

Q: What is your opinion of the Taliban and its policies?

A: The majority of countries in the world have separated religion and politics (state and religion). They are governed by a political system by qualified and experienced policy makers. These are professionals who can provide essential services to the people. Everyone knows a government should never be run by a religion, yet, all the same, the Taliban want to govern with religion with hopes to progress and develop our society. This is just not possible.

The Taliban use religion as a tool. Their rule will lead our country to ruin. There are even polices which restrict people’s appearance; like, to wear a beard for men or for women to wear a hijab. Women are not allowed to leave the home; we are not allowed to work or pursue education. There are so many restrictions.

I hate the Taliban and the Taliban’s policies.

Q: How do you feel about the rights of Afghan citizens?

A: The Taliban have left us zero rights. The Taliban have taken our right to education (for women and girls), our right to freedom of speech, and our right of expression. We have to wear particular clothes and maintain a certain appearance based on their rules. They have taken everything from us.

Afghan women the same as women of any other nationality. Unfortunately, because of the polices and laws of the Taliban, women are ordered to stay locked in at home. Women are not allowed to work, and we cannot even go outside without a male guardian. The Taliban are close-minded misogynists, and yet, surprisingly, 90% of their vision revolve around women.

According to the Taliban women are not allowed to raise their voices. There has been one instance where at least six women had raised their voices and then went missing. No one even knows their whereabouts.

There are millions of women in Afghanistan who don’t have a male partner to bring home an income. They don’t have a man to go outside and bring groceries or to take them to doctor visits.

The Taliban, with their cruel policies, do not observe objective facts. They dictate that women should not work, that they should not leave home without male guardian, and that they should not pursue an education.

Q: What is the general opinion of the Taliban?

A:The Taliban are basically contractors of religion. For us, Taliban means misery. Taliban means oppression and darkness. They are destroyers.

Q: Do you feel that there is a need for outside aid?

A: The people of Afghanistan are in urgent need of more foreign aid as there is now a famine in our country. Afghans are in need of financial, physical and spiritual assistance. There needs to be pressure from the international communities to make the Taliban respect the rights of people, especially the rights of women, girls and children, to end this oppression and suppression.

Discrimination and tyranny must end so that we can live with the right to work and pursue education.

Q: Is the western portrayal of Afghanistan under the Taliban accurate?

A: No, it is not. But there is no clear answer to this. Since the Taliban took over, there have been varying perceptions and reactions from the western community. For example, Norway is inviting the Taliban delegation while the European Union is supporting Afghan women’s rights. Still, the European Union is planning to open their embassies in Afghanistan while other countries are calling for particular requirements from the Taliban.

There is no one set of political approaches or demands from the west. Some western countries merely approach us based on their own political/economic interests. No one is talking about what Afghans are going through in Afghanistan. Sometimes it appears that the west recognizes the Taliban as a terrorist group, yet most seem merely to be pursuing their own interests.

Q: What do you think of the mental health of Afghans?

A: Good mental health does not exist for Afghans. This is due to more than forty years of war, conflict, and ongoing suffering. We are dealing with severe forms of mental health issues, which have taken patience, tolerance and peace from the minds of Afghans.

You will not see anyone cheerful in the city. This is because we are suffering from and dealing with ongoing mental and physical health issues. The wars have taken away our livelihood. We have no hope, no good health, no food (and now we face famine), and people are sick with incurable disease with inadequate medicine.

Q: Addiction is a serious problem, as there are roughly 5 million Afghans who are dealing with addiction. How can this situation be improved?

A: According to my research there are millions of Afghans who have opiate/drug addiction. The Taliban’s policies for the addicts in Afghanistan are just as ineffective as their other policies. There is no hope for these addicts because the Taliban merely beat and torture them. They treat them like criminals.

Speaking candidly, Afghanistan has plunged into deep misery. This has been made worse by our neighboring countries. They are responsible for at least 70% of Afghanistan’s misery, with Iran playing a large role in this.

Q: What inspires you?

A: I have no hope regarding Afghan life. For me, my inspiration comes from leading a good life with my family. I am thankful I have this.

Q: Where do you draw your hope/faith from?

A: I hope for national peace with a government formed by the people, for the people. I wish, along with my husband, to serve the people to provide opportunities for my children so they can go to school and gain an education.

For now, we wish to go to another country where we can live in peace and where my children can pursue an education. This would make me very happy.

Q: What makes you happy?

A: Due to the current situation, Afghans have nothing to do. I am busy with household chores from morning to evening, and I will be very happy if one day I can serve my people and homeland by performing duties outside the home.

Q: What would you say if the whole world was listening?

A: Do not leave Afghanistan alone. Do not leave Afghanistan in the hands of terrorists. Do not let the rights for women, children, ethnic minorities, and everyone else continue to be violated.

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