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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Afghanistan crisis — Hours before fall, women plead: ‘Don’t want to go back to that horrible era’

To women in the city, nay, across the country, the Taliban years of the 1990s are a constant reminder of something very dark, the enforcement of laws that deny women even basic rights – from curbing their movements to denying them education to strict rules on their attire.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | Kabul |
Updated: August 16, 2021 7:49:35 am
Women on a Kabul street on Sunday morning. (Express photo by Shubhajit Roy)

Around noon, in a school in Qallai Fatulla area of Kabul, the principal called the teachers and asked them to leave for their homes.

He had just heard that the Taliban had reached the city, and did not want the teachers, especially the women, to stay back and get stuck.

The principal, a 62-year-old and witness to many wars, many ups and downs, panicked because 16 of the 20 teachers in the school were young women, the majority in their 20s and 30s.

“I can’t risk their lives,” the principal told The Indian Express. “They are like my children who teach students who, in turn, are like my grandchildren.”

In downtown Shehr-e-nau, the morning queue at the Western Union Transfer was a sign of things to come. Women and men waited since 8 am to withdraw money from accounts because they had heard that the Taliban were at the gates of the city.

News of the fall of Jalalabad added to their fears and anxiety. A woman downed shutters of her beauty parlour to rush home — most knew that Kabul’s time had come.

To women in the city, nay, across the country, the Taliban years of the 1990s are a constant reminder of something very dark, the enforcement of laws that deny women even basic rights – from curbing their movements to denying them education to strict rules on their attire.

A young woman, teaching at a private school, said: “We have only heard of that era, and it sounds horrible. We just don’t want to go back to that time when we will have to sit at home and cannot teach.

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Thirty-one-year-old Shabana Noori, a TV actor who has featured in local advertisements, said: “Women have always borne the brunt of Taliban rule. We have grown up in an independent Afghanistan, free from Taliban rule, in the last 20 years. I don’t even remember how it was back then. I just hope we don’t go back to that era.”

Word of the Taliban arrival spread like wildfire, and the city panicked. There were traffic snarls everywhere, and people found themselves trapped in gridlocks. Others rushed home to stock up on essentials. Mobile networks too faced disruptions. By afternoon, the streets emptied.

The Taliban were here.

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