In 2009, I was 13 years old and I had taken fashion into my own hands. I loved designing new clothes, imagining how I could stand out from the crowd. It became an obsession, the only thing on my mind. Then the Taliban came, again and again.
Unless things change in Afghanistan, future generations will grow up in a country where resources are scarcer and prospects slimmer. Without modern education nationwide to promise social mobility, many Afghan children find themselves left with the misfortune of having to risk life and limb at the border.
The transition from war to peace and building is fraught with unexpected challenges for men who have devoted their lives to waging armed jihad. Even powerful regimes of the past that were backed by the world’s top powers failed the test. The Taliban are now trying to prove they can govern the country as effectively as they waged war against it when the Northern Alliance and Americans held sway.
There is a new dynamic emerging amongst the world’s furore this time round, taking the form of a clarion call: Treat the Taliban’s systemic attacks on women as another famous struggle against inequality — that of apartheid.
Mental health and drug addiction are intertwined, as people attempt to self-medicate with over-the-counter pharmaceutical drugs for psychological relief, a phenomenon that has only worsened since the Taliban takeover in August 2021, when the international community pulled major funding from a health sector tending to a war-weary population.
Even though her nephew is with her, and she is fully covered, she can feel the men’s eyes on her, ogling her body. She wonders why the staring is worse than usual, and decides it’s because there are fewer women and girls on the streets. “Look!” Her nephew points to a group of women protestors. They are chanting, “Food, work, freedom! Education is our right! Open the girls’ schools!”
When the Taliban took over, many Afghans lost hope, both for the country and its people. If you’re a teacher of small girls, it is impossible to accept the death of hope. But now it has evaporated before my very eyes.