In this time of transition for Afghanistan, we need to remember the progress of Afghan women over the past decade and work together to sustain it. Shoulder-to-Shoulder is about Afghan women’s own experiences – as told in their own words. Share these stories, and your own, on Twitter using #ShoulderToShoulder; you can also take our pledge today to stand with Afghan women’s activists.
The six years of the Taliban regime were the darkest years of my life. I spent every moment in fear. During the Taliban regime, I felt like a bird in a cage, but I never lost hope. When I wrote about the bad times in my diary, I also wrote about my dreams for better days for all Afghan people, and for myself.
I saw the Taliban beating my mother for going outside of our home without a male family member – my mother’s neck still hurts. The Taliban beat my brother and put him at the jail for listening to music. And I still remember the night the Taliban kidnapped a young girl from our neighborhood. I heard the girl’s shrieks as they carried her away. For a very long time after that, I would sit in my bedroom at night and not go to sleep for fear the Taliban would climb the wall of our house and kidnap me. Every morning, I opened my eyes and wished only that the day would end without me losing any of my family members.
Because we are Shia, the Taliban didn’t consider us Muslims or Afghans. They wanted us to leave Afghanistan and go to Iran. But we were not welcomed in Iran; we were not even allowed to work there.
The best moment of my life came in 2001 when I heard on the radio that the Taliban were no longer in power. After that, schools opened for both girls and boys. I was very happy because I could go to school. I was allowed to listen to music, watch TV and go on picnics with my family without any fear. People got jobs. Women started to work outside of their homes.
People’s lives improved dramatically. During that Taliban regime, I was not sure that I would ever go to school, but now I am a college graduate and so are my sisters and my brother. I am helping other women in my country to become educated, have equal rights and equal opportunities. I am very happy to see that now people of Afghanistan want both their sons and daughters get an education. Many Afghan men and women are learning about their rights. Many Afghan men support Afghan women and respect their rights. Men even vote for women who want to become politicians. Today Afghan women drive cars and they participate in our society, economy, politics and army.
Although I am very happy about Afghan women’s achievements, I worry that the international community may leave us alone. Even with all of the progress in Afghanistan, I still have nightmares when I think about those dark days of the Taliban regime. I believe everything takes time; we have come a long way, but we still need United States help and support.
I would like to thank all of the people and organizations – including the Feminist Majority Foundation – who have supported Afghan women. Now, my hope is that the United States and the international community will stay with us.