Editor’s note: This story was produced in partnership with Rukhshana Media and is part of The Fuller Project’s ongoing series, “Ending America’s Forever War: What is next for Afghan women?”, documenting what the end of America’s longest war on foreign soil means for the women who have lived through it. Follow The Fuller Project’s continuing coverage here.
I had no experience living under the Taliban.
All that I knew of their regime came from the historical narratives of women who shared their bitter experience of living under the regime of the Taliban.
When I was listening to those women’s stories, I never imagined becoming a part of such narratives and writing about them one day.
On Sunday, 15 August, I left home for the office. I opened my laptop as soon as I reached my office. At that moment, a colleague in a hurried and stressed tone told me, “The Taliban have entered Kabul; go back home!”
I was suddenly out of breath. My hands and legs were shaking. I pushed myself not to cry and hurried out of the office. For as far as one’s eyes could see, there was a traffic jam on the roads, and people were impatiently rushing. The sky was gray on that day, and the sun was warmer than the days before. I was shocked.
Some people were just staring at each other, talking about the closure of banks, the arrival of the Taliban, the shootings, death, fleeing, and looting. It felt as if someone was hanging hope at the city’s gates, and we all were watching its death with regret, sadness, and tears while our voice and tears were dried in our throats and eyes.
With all its difficulties, I managed to get home. A mixed feeling of tears and despair was stuck in my throat. As I couldn’t stop thinking about the dark days ahead of us, I felt a pain in my heart. I didn’t know what to do and who to call first. I was looking at my home, desk, books, and deep down in my bones, I could feel the end of my life.
It was as if an earthquake had struck in me and my achievements had collapsed and were ruined within my skin and veins.
Today, 15 September, one month has passed since the Taliban took over Kabul. One month felt like a year for us. The weekdays were no longer there, and I was forced to live on Fridays (weekends) forever.
I have only left my house four times since the fall of Kabul. I am worried, and I am terrified of the whippings. I am afraid of the lash that will hit my feet and the bullets that might end my life. I have reached point zero, and I am in complete despair.
On Thursday, I arranged to go out with a friend. We felt fear deep in our bones, but we didn’t stop and continued on our way nonetheless. We went near our office and saw the Taliban fighters with long hair and beards, old men with guns on their shoulders, and the hope of returning to work faded in our hearts.
That day, silence and oppression reigned in the city. On the other hand, depression and despair rain down on people. However, some men were still shouting from behind, asking: “Why don’t you wear a burqa?”
We said nothing and continued with silence.
I, who was the breadwinner for eight people and the support for my mother and sisters, now feel in prison at home. The only thing that keeps my fingers moving these days is writing and checking emails. The uncertainty is torturing me. My heart is full of pain, full of sorrow, but it seems as if the world has turned its back to us, and no one is eager to listen to us.
The only happy moments of these days are when I think of the past, something that is no more. I think of Saturdays and going to the library; on Thursday evenings, I read poetry with my friends, Friday morning when we go hiking, and Tuesday evening when I used to watch the trees in our neighborhood. Those days are gone, and I am thinking of death.
For several weeks now, sleep had gone from my eyes, but the nightmares wouldn’t leave me alone. I have no hope for the situation to improve. I went to school and university, studied for 16 years, and worked for four years, but everything perished and faded away.
Now, my biggest dreams are going shopping, going to the library, leaving the house without a Mahram (male companion) and without Burqa, and returning to work. Are these big dreams?
Laila, 25, is former government employee. Translation by Sahar Fetrat.