Kabul, Afghanistan – Marzia Hamidi, a taekwondo competitor, dreamed massive. The 19-year-old Afghan athlete had her eyes on nationwide and worldwide championships. But her desires have been dashed after the Taliban, which is in opposition to girls participation in sports activities, took management of the nation in August.
Her Instagram account – with greater than 20,000 followers – was a window into her cheerful and passionate life, however no extra. She now adorns a black abaya and matching hijab fearing Afghanistan’s new rulers.
At the tip of September, Hamidi went into hiding after Taliban members got here trying to find her.
Taliban’s return to energy after 20 years has led to self-censorship and has induced considerations amongst Afghans, notably girls, who fear a return of repressive life below the group.
The Taliban had initially promised to respect girls and permit them to work within the authorities as per Islamic legislation, however secondary faculties stay closed for women, and there may be an unofficial ban on girls working, except for a number of professions resembling within the well being sector. Critics say their phrases haven’t matched actions on the bottom.
The Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, tasked with selling Islamic values within the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate, has changed the Ministry of Women, elevating questions on girls empowerment within the nation.
Female protests erupted throughout a number of cities demanding their rights final month, however they have been harshly suppressed.
Thousands of girls have already fled within the wake of the autumn of Kabul on August 15, whereas many others are searching for methods to go away, fearing the brand new regime will confine them to their houses.
During the primary Taliban regime between 1996 and 2001, girls just about disappeared from the general public eye as they have been banned from working and weren’t allowed to travel and not using a male guardian. The violation of strict rules on girls’s clothes and their behaviour in public attracted extreme punishment, resembling lashing and stoning.
Hamidi worries that girls like her will quickly meet the same destiny. She sits in a café inside an eighth storey residential constructing in central Kabul and slowly takes her abaya off – a cloak she says she will not be snug sporting.
Born in Iran
Hamidi was born in Iran to a household of Afghan refugees. At 15, she went to a taekwondo class and instantly fell in love with the game. Soon after, she turned an expert fighter, incomes a number of gold medals within the Under 57kg class nationwide competitions.
But three years in the past, Hamidi’s sporting profession was disrupted after her household determined to move to Afghanistan. Her father now not wished to be a refugee in a overseas land, the place they have been usually subjected to racist assaults. Iran is home to greater than two million undocumented Afghans, along with 800,000 registered refugees.
The household joined her brother, who had a worthwhile enterprise in Kabul. But for the self-confident athlete, Kabul proved to be a troublesome place to observe her sport.
“It’s always been hard for female fighters in Afghanistan. My male coach always stared at me, focused on my looks, which made me uncomfortable. Other girls in the taekwondo team always wore headscarves and complained that I did not,” Hamidi says.
“When the Taliban came, I was thinking about destroying my medals. Shall I burn them or keep them? I asked myself. But my brother talked me out of the idea and told me to hide them in a safe place.”
Soon after, nevertheless, the medals weren’t the one factor she needed to conceal.
Went into hiding
Last week, a gaggle of unknown males got here to her household home asking for her whereabouts, doubtless due to her social media exercise, she says. They additionally visited her brother’s workplace.
A month and a half into the Taliban rule, Hamidi determined to enter hiding. She now regularly adjustments places and lives in fixed fear.
“I want to leave Afghanistan to resume my training because I want to prepare for the 2024 Olympic Games. But I don’t want to go back to Iran. The situation of refugees is difficult there, there is a lot of racism. Even if I’m the best, they will not let me attend the Olympics,” Hamidi says.
“Everything has changed since the coming to power of the Taliban.”
The 20 years of overseas occupation in Afghanistan noticed progress on girls’s rights. Women like Hamidi benefitted from broader entry to training and programmes that supported gender equality.
Women’s literacy price went as much as 29.81 p.c in 2018 from 5.6 p.c in 2001, when the US-led forces toppled the Taliban regime from energy.
Women have been allowed to check in coeducational universities and costume in vibrant tunics that fell above the knee. Hijabs have been nonetheless a part of girls’s apparel, however many allowed themselves to take them off within the quite a few cafés and eating places in Kabul, the place they might freely combine with males. For these girls, the return of the Taliban means the tip of life as they comprehend it.
A distant dream
As an worker with overseas organisations, Meena Naeemi had a possibility to go away Afghanistan after the autumn of Kabul, however she determined to remain. Now, within the ultimate semester of her grasp’s in Pashto literature, she is ready to complete her diploma earlier than searching for alternatives overseas.
But finishing her research below the Taliban might show unattainable. Classes at her college haven’t resumed for girls and after they do, they are going to be segregated.
“I did not expect to face such a fate. It is still very hard for me to believe that my country is in such a state. I have no hopes for completing my education and getting a job because they do not want us to participate in society. They introduced peace at the expense of eliminating women,” Naeemi says.
“I’m afraid that from now on, the girls will be stuck at home, while boys continue their education. I look in the mirror and realise that all my plans are a distant dream. I feel like I am slowly dying.”
The previous 20 years have modified Afghan girls; many now not agree with the strict rules imposed on them, gaining company that they’re unlikely to provide away.
Homeira Qaderi, a girls’s rights activist from Herat, believes in civil resistance in opposition to the Taliban. But she additionally is aware of that almost all girls shall be too afraid to face up for his or her rights.
“When the Taliban took over Kabul, I went to the media to talk to them. They should see women who will not remain silent. I believe in the power of speech. But with each passing day, we see the Taliban abusing women on the streets again,” the 41-year-old says.
“The streets of Afghanistan are no longer a safe place for women. The resistance is a path to light. But what if women’s resistance to the Taliban will be met with whips and guns?”
Qaderi remembers the Taliban’s earlier rule through the 1990s as a young person when girls had no alternative however to get married and lift youngsters. Many of them ended up marrying individuals they didn’t know or love, at an age after they couldn’t make knowledgeable selections.
“Violence against women is systematic in the behaviour of the Taliban government. If the Taliban do not use violence against women, they will lose their identity,” she says.
“But the period of slavery is over and any attempt to enslave us will sooner or later fail. I hope the world does not turn its back on Afghan women again.”