“Our dreams are gone. All hopes are lost,” replied a friend.
I did not know what to say anymore. The first time I read about Afghanistan was in 2001, after 9/11. I first time discovered Afghanistan through Khaled Hosseini’s book “The Kite Runner.” To this date, the novel remains one of my favorites, but it was his “A Thousand Splendid Suns” that struck a chord. I was heartbroken after reading this book. It left a lingering impact on me. I cried for hours after reading the book. My heart bled for Laila and Mariam, the main characters of the story. But I also wondered how difficult it must be to be a woman in a war-torn country, dealing with patriarchy and religious extremism every step of the way.
When I moved to India to study, I met students from Afghanistan in my college. Over years, many of them became very good friends. I have always been impressed by the resilience most of them showed, but in particular by the determination of the Afghan girls I met. They had to fight hard to be able to get an opportunity to study abroad. Their stories touched me deeply, as most of them have dealt with situations I could never imagine despite being from a highly patriarchal society. Many of them shared with me over the years how they wished they never had to return.
“You have no idea what it is like to live in Afghanistan. I always feel like a prisoner there. I will have no life once I go back” I heard these lines over and over again. Over years many people I knew moved to Europe or Canada, and few to the United States. They left their country overnight and embarked on dangerous journeys at times- just so they can be in a place where they will be safe and free. But there are some who always dreamed that situation of Afghanistan will improve, and they wanted to use their skills to develop their country. But now, they feel defeated.
Ever since I have learned what is going on in Afghanistan, I have been anxiously trying to reach out to my friends to check on them if they are fine. It has been extremely painful for me as a listener; I cannot imagine what it must be like to live in Afghanistan right now, living at the mercy of the Taliban. A friend shared with me that now Afghanistan is like a slaughterhouse.
“I think everything is finished now. It is over for us,” said Roya, a dear friend of mine. Roya always told me she was looking for a way to leave Afghanistan. She had a good job, and her family supported her dreams. But coming from a country plagued by religious extremism, she always feared that one day her dreams will be snatched from her. The Taliban often target women who are working. And today, her worst nightmare has come true. Roya is worried about her safety as she worked with an international organization. There are countless women like Roya now who fought against the odds to achieve their goals. But today, all they can think about is how long she and her family will survive.
Another friend managed to flee Afghanistan with his family. It was a narrow escape, just on time according to him. Afghans who had been working with international organizations are at high risk, according to what he has shared with me. This makes me worried for my dear Afghan friends and former batchmates.
With the return of the Taliban, women’s rights are a distant dream once again. I don’t know what will happen to my friends. I can only hope that somehow they find a way to escape. But it is not easy. It is heartbreaking to watch videos from Kabul airport, people frantically trying to board a plane.
In Afghanistan, people are stuck at home, unable to escape, unable to dream of tomorrow. With the return of the Taliban, all the progress the country had made in past decades is reset. For religious minorities and women, the situation is alarming. “It is not possible to escape now. Just pray that we survive,” said Mariam, another friend of mine.
It makes me feel sad and angry. Afghanistan not only needs our prayers, but also the support of the International community. The international community must step in and help. Afghanistan needs our support. We cannot just leave the Afghans at the mercy of the Taliban. We may not be able to do much individually, but we can raise our voices and create pressure on the international community to intervene. Let humanity prevail.
Names were changed to protect privacy.
About the writer:
The writer is working as the editor of Women Chapter’s English site. She has completed an M.A. in Development Studies from the International Institute of Social Studies, the Hague, the Netherlands. When she is free, she likes to write, travel or make quilled art/crafts.