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For a generation of Afghan women, US foreign policy changed everything

Since 2001, the US has spent an estimated $1.5 billion on improving women’s lives in Afghanistan.

What has it been like to be on the receiving end of this attention? More Afghan women are in school and employed in jobs. Maternal mortality has decreased. Yet others say the funds were wasteful and mismanaged, and a patriarchal culture remains. More needs to change.

I remember when the Taliban arrived in Kabul. The girls’ schools were closed and women were not allowed to go outside without a man from their family. Home turned into prison for women, and only a bunch of men with black and white turbans could free these imprisoned birds from the cage.

We lived in Block, Macroyan, Kabul and were not even allowed to look out of the window. I still remember I was taking my sister to the doctor, and two other girls were walking next to us. They wore burquas and pants, but their ankles and feet were visible. I recall their feet were covered with henna, which are tattoos to celebrate weddings.

A car appeared and from inside men shouted — “you girls stop walking.” We thought they might be calling us and walked faster. Suddenly, I heard a shout and I look around to see men in black turbans jump from the back of the vehicle and beat on the shoulder of the girls with a cable.

He kept saying “lower your pants” to cover her ankles. A teenage boy standing nearby took the girls away to protect them. “Cousin,” I overheard him say kindly. “Come here. They are always barking like dog.”

Even under the Taliban, people listened to music and watched films secretly. They drew curtains and kept tight the windows and doors. Despite these precautions, many times informants told the Taliban, and they would rush into people’s homes to break the TVs, and detain the men.

The most barbaric act I experienced was when they blackened people’s faces with charcoal and cycled them around the city to shame them. One day, I was reading a criminal novel by an Iranian writer when I heard a noise. We all ran and looked out the window. A man’s face was blackened with charcoal and a crowd of folk were after him. The Taliban lashed him and made him say, “whoever does adultery will also be in my situation.”

The man kept repeating this, and all the people were laughing.

The people got tired of the Taliban brutality and became frustrated with the world’s apathy. We were especially frustrated with the inaction of the US and its allies, so-called saviors of democracy and humanity. Many Afghans didn’t see a future and fled the country. Suddenly 9/11 happened and Afghanistan caught the attention of the world.

To view the full article, visit http://www.pri.org/stories/2016-10-25/generation-afghan-woman-us-foreign-policy-changed-everything

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