The Taliban took over the government of Afghanistan in 1996 – 2001 for the first time, and
during these years the Afghan people experienced many restrictions contrary to human rights.
One of the main areas of restrictions was in women’s education; Afghan women and girls had
no access to education and employment. All schools and education centers were closed for girls
for four years. Females were confined at home without any programs and activities. I was one
of those girls, and I was kept in the house without being about to go outdoors. We passed our
time like this for some months, until the day when my father was arrested at his workplace. We
didn’t know where he was being kept and spent 10 days searching for him. We found him in a
badly tortured condition. He had been so brutally beaten up by the Taliban that it was hard to
recognize him. Since that experience of torture, my father has carried the fear and physical pain
with himself to this day. We had to leave the country and move to Pakistan. We lived in the
city of Peshawar for four years. My younger brothers and sisters between age of 10 to 18, and
I, all worked hard day and night to maintain our lives in Peshawar. We all were busy with
carpet weaving at home. These long working hours meant my brothers and sisters were unable
to attend school regularly. I was fortunate to be able to attend a few English Language classes.
We moved back to our own home after the Taliban was defeated by US and international troops
in Afghanistan. The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan was established in Afghanistan in 2001.
We had a new government and started a new life with fresh hope and opportunities. We
experienced a peaceful life for the first time after so many years. Importantly we women did
not have to wear the burqa anymore. I had to find a job before starting my schooling again.
Since I had learnt some English in the Language Course in Peshawar, I had the possibility of
finding job with an international organization. It was the time that the international community
opened their offices in Kabul and other cities of Afghanistan to support the new government
of Afghanistan for the country’s reconstruction and development. So, there were employment
opportunities for those who knew English.
I found a job with United Nation Office in Kabul. It was a big opportunity for me to help my
whole family economically and support my siblings restart their schooling and continue their
higher education in universities, working towards Bachelors and Masters degrees. In addition
to my employment, I also focused on my own education and development. In 2005, I went to
Kabul University and commenced my bachelor degree program in sociology, and then I
travelled to Austria for a Masters Program. I continued working with international
organizations such as UN Agencies, USAID, The World Bank, and the Swedish Embassy. I
also managed to continue my education at the PhD level, winning a scholarship and completing
a doctorate in December 2020 from Otago University in Aotearoa New Zealand. This research
was very important for the education sector of Afghanistan. Studying and working for the last
two decades, I have contributed to my country’s development. The change in my personal life,
my family lives, my community, and my whole country has been tremendous.
I tell my personal story to show here that I am simply one example of millions of Afghan people
who have worked hard towards development and peace in Afghanistan. Millions of people like
me made their way through education and contributed to the developments of Afghanistan,
particularly women. With all the challenges, facing political dilemmas and insecurity, Afghan
women have made efforts to be the change agents in the country and they have played their
role well in all development sectors. The years from 2002 to 2021 were good for progress and
social change in Afghanistan. The presence of the international community and their support
to Afghanistan contributed significantly to social changes in this country. Although, we Afghan
people experienced failed political policies and strategies with leadership of Afghan politicians
whose personal interests superseded the interests of their people, we achieved remarkable
progress in our social lives. The last two decades was an era of learning and information for
Afghan people. Women had places in schools and universities, and we used education to our
advantage in our personal and professional lives. We had the opportunity to work in all the
development sectors and run our families and the local economy. We followed our pathway
slowly in a forward direction, although we had our big political challenges. We failed
politically, because of Afghan male leadership and political failure on the part of the
international community. These political failures have contributed significantly to the current
chaos in Afghanistan.
Main discussion points:
First, the international community was present in Afghanistan for two decades, with the goal
of supporting the people of Afghanistan to have better lives. Most of the international
community missions in Afghanistan made big efforts to bring about social change in peoples’
lives in Afghanistan, and I think they achieved good results. Now, by leaving Afghanistan, it feels that the international community has devalued the social gains made that improved
peoples’ lives. With the Taliban back in power the Afghan people have abruptly gone back to
20 years ago to relive the lives they had during the Taliban’s previous administration between
1996 and 2001. I question how the international community could agreed to US troops
withdrawal at once this year, and not consider the millions of people left behind? Why did the
international community not express their concern and disagreement about this momentous
Second, the US and NATO or other international supporters came to Afghanistan with the
main political purpose to overthrow al-Qaeda and stop their terrorist activities in the region and
in the world. Although US government leadership claimed they achieved their goal, effectively
al-Qaeda is back to power in Afghanistan. This is a big threat both to the region and the world.
The world will be treated again to similar terrorist attacks as 9/11.
The presence of the international community in Afghanistan could not last forever, but the
strategy of rapid troops withdrawal has led to the collapse of the country, economically,
politically and socially. The Afghan people fear once again experiencing a dark era, and have
lost hope. All are trying to get out of country which is not possible. Afghan women will once
again be confined to home-prisons and have lost everything they have achieved over the last
Want to help girls in Afghanistan? Donate here to support education for Afghan girls.