#7: Life under the Taliban

A New War Against Ignorance


S. Sharifi received her degree from Kabul University's journalism department. She worked for the Green House organization, which focused on equality. She is currently in Kabul and continues to pursue her passion for journalism though with many restrictions. 

Curated by

Ali Ahmad, Danube University Krems/VIDC and Michael Fanizadeh, VIDC Global Dialogue

Women in Kabul 2023 © Aadil Ahmad

Women in Kabul 2023 © Aadil Ahmad

The following article was written by S. Sharifi* as part of our article series “Life under the Taliban”. Women and men from different parts of the country and with different perspectives and realities tell us their stories. Sharifi is a journalist and received her degree from the Faculty of Journalism at Kabul University. As a young member of the Hazara community in Afghanistan, she joined the public protests following the closure of girls' schools and of the Ministry of Women's Affairs in Kabul. To protect herself and her family from possible retaliation by the Taliban, she chose a pseudonym.

The fall of Kabul was a turning point for me

Afghanistan has a troubled past and has been a tragic place for decades. It is cut off from progress and civilization, and its people have been at war with those who disagree with them. I grew up in a country where there has always been violence, death, and devastation. Even though we played no role in the downfall of our country, we have always been the main victims of this tragedy. I spent twenty years of my life trying to be successful and happy, but ignorant forces cruelly determined my fate. The fall of Kabul was a turning point in my life when everything turned dark and hopeless. After the president fled and the Taliban took over, a new war of ignorance began. This impoverished country, which is separate from history and civilization, has made headlines in the news, and its characteristics have shaken the world since many years.

Girls’ schools were closed as soon as the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs was replaced by the Ministry of Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. To stop the Ministry of Women’s Affairs from becoming the Taliban’s Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, I joined the ministry’s female staff, who protested outside the ministry’s main headquarters in Kabul and asked the international community for help. The Taliban, however, violently stopped the protest and scattered the demonstrators.
The Kabul University dorm where I was staying felt more like a prison because of the daily restrictions that were implemented, despite the fact that universities in the country were still accessible to female students until December of last year. In the dorm, Shiite religious ceremonies were not allowed, and members of the Hazara community were mocked and insulted. Millennials secretly observed the Ashura ceremony while these conflicts were ongoing, but the Taliban mocked their beliefs and viewpoints. The Hazaras were referred to as filthy, and their religion was held responsible for blasphemy, corruption, and fighting. Six Hazara girls were detained, but I succeeded in avoiding arrest. The de facto command delegation informed the dormitory, instilling fear among the students.

In the past, I attended classes, went to university, and worked from morning until evening. However, now I am lucky to leave the house twice a week. Life under Taliban law is harsh, and the deprivation of fundamental rights has made it even worse. It is important for the international community to act and prevent the Taliban from continuing to oppress and endanger the future of Afghan women.

Afghan Women Fight for Rights Despite Taliban Repression and Threats ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠

Afghanistan has traditionally been a country where men have held power and have made decisions. They have consistently been at the forefront and have had a significant impact on the turbulent history of the nation. Women, on the other hand, have been denied rights, given second-class status, and had their voices muffled. Afghan women have never given up the fight for their rights, and women and girls have actively resisted and fought for their rights since the Taliban took over on August 15th 2021. Despite threats and obstacles, they persist in their pursuit of equality and recognition as full and equal human beings. As an Afghan Hazara girl who has lived for two decades and gained an understanding of life, I occasionally feel guilty and am accused of allowing a group that lacks the wisdom and dignity to humiliate me. However, by standing tall in that role, I have also demonstrated to the world that I am a strong advocate for the rights of Afghan girls.

I have screamed for humanity alongside a group of protesting girls demanding our rights. We broke the tradition of captivity by starting a war, and we shouted for justice from street to street. To our surprise, we were subjected to verbal abuse, physical repression, and humiliation. We, the Afghan women, dedicate our lives to carrying out this struggle against the Taliban‘s oppressive rule. Despite the dangers involved, women bravely participate in a variety of demonstrations while defying the strict restrictions placed upon them. Afghan women had been receiving education and training for more than twenty years to attain status and positions, albeit through struggle.

Afghan women made history for the first time when they stood up to discrimination, abuse, and dogma. They organized their resistance despite facing the regime's whip, yet they continued to protest. Women’s stubbornness and resistance have hurt the power of the Taliban, which has made it take harsher actions against them. The Taliban turned to arresting, torturing, and killing people to maintain their power and control. Women lost the courage to carry on fighting as a result of this brutality, but they did not give up. Although the Taliban’s reign of terror took away their freedom, it was unable to put out their spirit of hope and determination.

It has been miserable to live under Taliban rule for almost two years. The strictness of the de facto government has made life challenging for educated women and the next generation, particularly girls. Women's fortunes in life are in great danger. If this pattern persists, it will not only impede the nation’s development but also return it to a time of total ignorance. The rest of the world has said and done nothing, and the terrible situation of women in Afghanistan has not changed. Their right to life, as well as to freedom, education, and employment, have all been taken away. In Afghanistan, women suffer from prejudice, superiority, discrimination, and religion. Since the Taliban seized power, it has worked to minimize and eliminate women’s contributions to society.

Surviving Taliban Brutality

I remember taking part in a protest march that went from the Ministry of Defense in Kabul to the Presidential Palace. The pain from the Taliban whipping me during the protest still bothers me today. My entire body felt the severe pain that the whip had caused. I mentally and emotionally prepared myself for the suffering that would follow the moment I stepped up to fight against this extremist group. I was aware that the Taliban was only capable of waging war and inciting terror, and that they were afraid of empowering women. They feared me and my friends. The “fighting women of Afghanistan—Zanaan Mubarez Afghanistan” group organized a spontaneous protest on September 30th 2021 to oppose the exclusion of girls and women from education. The demonstration started at the Rukhshane School, and the Taliban blocked the road and mistreated us. Later, they abruptly and violently put an end to the march as a whole, causing mayhem and disruption.

I have nothing in common with the Taliban. My religion, my thoughts, and my entire being—from A to Z—are different from theirs. In my religion, education and teaching are considered obligatory for men and women; however, these clerics oppose the education of women and girls with their barbaric ideologies. My difference caused a burning pain in my bones, and the pain of these demands and limitations drove me to speak out on the streets of Kabul. The day the Taliban made me stand out in a crowd of people due to the color of my clothing, my life lost its color. The moment they told me I could not wear white, my identity changed, and I lost hope. I remain committed to defending my rights, as well as the rights of all Afghan women. I am still strong and tall, but I do not know how long that will last.

* The author uses a pseudonym for security reasons.