15 August, 2021: The darkest day I will never forget

   Zarifa Sabet:                 

Artwork by Shamsia Hassani

 

It was 15 August 2021, when I woke up, dressed up, and got ready to go to my office. I got into my car and took my book to read in the heavy traffic jam of Kabul. I have been mentally disturbed during the last couple of weeks as the Taliban took over many cities and districts across Afghanistan. I knew that there was some terrible news to be worried and concerned about, that is why I was avoiding the news. I was on the road for 15-minutes when my colleagues told me that Mazar had fallen to the Taliban and Bamiyan might fall as well. After hearing this news, I closed my book, I could no longer concentrate. 

As we needed money, my friend and I decided to go to the bank before going to the office. There was too much of a rush at the bank. From 8:30 till 11:30 we were waiting in a long queue for our turn, but the bank ran out of money and they said they soon would bring some.  Just as the money reached the bank, the crowd spread out and everybody was shouting that the Taliban has reached the bank’s doorstep; we got out panicking. As I was wearing my everyday clothes, I was terrified –  if the Taliban were at the doorstep, they would shoot me. My colleague was aware of the situation and she was wearing a long dress head to toe and carrying a bigger scarf. I borrowed her extra scarf and wrapped myself with it in fear of the Taliban. As all roads were closed and people were running away with fear, no car was willing to take us. 

Having no other option, we walked all the way from the bank to the office – a 40 to 50-minute walk. The disturbing part was that all men in the street were teasing us and passing comments on us, “the Taliban will soon come and the Chadari (Burqa) price will increase.” They were laughing at our fear and worries. We reached the office but everybody had already left. It was impossible to go home by car because all roads were closed and traffic police had already left their duty stations out of fear. We managed to walk halfway before the humiliating looks of men were following us again. They were taunting us saying, “Taliban return will be good and women will wear Chadari”, “It is the last days of your freedom and the price of Chadaris has increased.” I returned home and I heard that the Taliban took most of the police districts in Kabul. In the blink of an eye, the Taliban returned to Kabul.

I went through a lot of struggles to go to school, go out of the country to study, and find a job. I could not imagine that I would lose all of my freedom. That I would be restricted inside my house, would have to cover myself from head to toe, and be accompanied by a male relative in order to go out. Just a week ago, I was moving around freely wherever I wanted. I was able to express my opinion about injustice, inequality, human rights, and women’s rights through my writing and social media platforms. Since 15 August 2021, I have been feeling unsafe, imprisoned, and I have been living in fear and disappointment. I had to remove my photos from social media and remove posts in which I was criticizing the Taliban’s brutality and the atrocities they commit. Ultimately, I needed to deactivate my accounts due to security reasons. I was campaigning for promoting women’s rights through whatever means I could. Now, I have to block myself, even inside my house, block my pen and my thoughts in order not to be killed. It is the worst kind of nightmare and the end of the life which I had never lived because we were always traumatized by all our endless sufferings and pain that we’ve carried since childhood.

About the writer:

Zarifa Sabet has a Master’s Degree in International Relations from South Asian University in New Delhi, India. She has been working in Afghanistan on women’s rights for the past few years. She has several credible publications to her credit and writes extensively on Human Rights, Women’s Rights, and Child Rights in Afghanistan.

 

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