Internally displaced Afghan women from northern provinces, who fled their home due to fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security personnel, receive medical care in a public park in Kabul, Afghanistan

Afghanistan

'We are so afraid': An Afghan women's rights activist is left behind in Afghanistan

A women's rights expert joins The World's host Marco Werman to talk about what life is like in Kabul, now that the US military has completely withdrawn and the Taliban is in full control.

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Internally displaced Afghan women from northern provinces, who fled their home due to fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security personnel, receive medical care in a public park in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 10, 2021.

Credit:

Rahmat Gul/AP/File photo

“We regret to inform you that international military evacuations from Kabul airport have ended.” That’s the grim message many Afghans received via text from US officials this weekend.

The news was a gut punch for thousands of Afghan activists, civil society workers and those who assisted the US military and other foreign powers. Many rushed to flee the country when the Taliban took over several weeks ago but remain stranded. 

Related: Afghan families are being rapidly resettled in the US. But adjusting to their new lives will take years.  

Although the Taliban has promised rights for women and those who have opposed them, the hard-handed Taliban rule of the '90s still haunts many Afghans today, making them skeptical of whether those pledges will be fulfilled.

Related: 'They're depending on us': Afghan interpreter scrambles to help evacuate colleagues in Afghanistan

One women's rights activist who wishes to remain anonymous for security reasons joined The World's host Marco Werman to talk about what life is like in Kabul, now that the US military has completely withdrawn and the Taliban is in full control.

She currently directs an internationally funded women’s project focused on rural development, but she says she's unsure what the future holds for her and her family. 

Related: Women’s shelters in Afghanistan face an uncertain future

Marco Werman: As you well know, many Afghans, including those who have worked on women’s empowerment projects, did not manage to get on evacuation flight. What’s that experience been like for you — hoping to get out — but not finding a lifeline?
Afghan women's rights activist: There was different outreach to us: "Please prepare this form and that form and send this document and that document..." but at the end of the day, no result. I applied for many country's visas. I worked for [the] Canadians, I work for [the] French, and I work for USAID's main office and the US Embassy. But no one [got] back to me [about a] flight. I know many women who are women's right activists. They're still in the country and they are struggling for a situation that may happen to them in the coming weeks and coming days.
And you submitted the documents to those embassies in order for evacuation, but you did not hear back from any of them?
Yeah, all these countries, they announced internationally that they are supporting women's rights activists. And while I am now currently leading a big [women's] economic empowerment rural development program, that's a $100 million-funded World Bank project they implemented [in the] government of Afghanistan through the Ministry of Women at first.
What are you and your family's options now, if any, for getting out of Afghanistan?
I think, to go to a third country, preferably a neighboring country. I keep trying and I'm still thinking [positively] for this option. This is like Plan B for me.
I'm wondering what sort of future women who have been vocal and upfront about women's issues, what kind of future do you face if you can't get those visas? 
Oh, this is so sad. When I'm thinking about the future. I couldn't think about my kids, my son, my daughter. I think my country will go back 50 years when women were not allowed to go to work, when girls were not allowed to continue their education, we were not allowed to go out of the home. So, what remains for us? We're human beings and we like freedom, for myself and for my daughter and for my son ... because they have big, big dreams for their future. I have big dreams for their future.
Your daughter is entering 12th grade. What is she telling you? 
Today she was crying. Actually, today it was her birthday. I totally forgot, but my son went and brought a small cake for her and we celebrated so quietly, like, no one was happy. No one joked and it was so, so sad. But I told her, "You will have a chance to continue education."
What about your son? I gather he's at Kabul University. Will he continue his education?
Yeah, my son is so clever. He is an A+ student at the university. He went to university one day, but the university system all collapsed because the university lecturer left Afghanistan.
Well, I hear that a mullah has been appointed the education minister under the Taliban. Are there signs already of a worsening situation for women in education?
They put a mullah as a minister of higher education. I was listening to his speech and he was talking about separating girl students from boy students and male-female separate classes at the university. My question is, how could this guy pretend that he can make this situation, because he has not allowed woman lecturers to come to the university? So, what the hell is this? This totally will eliminate women and girl students from the university and, obviously, this is their policy to take aside the women and girl students from the university. This is totally frustrating. 
What do you see when you turn on the television in Afghanistan these days?
This is all dialogue with the Taliban. They talk about their policies. "The people should not be afraid of us, we are human, we are your brothers," and blah, blah, blah. But as long as all people know they did lots of wild actions against the Afghan army, against many families that were under their coverage area ... also, the past 20 years, their attitude toward women, toward the young generation, this is life history. Many people were alive that time and now they are seeing these people back onboard. People cannot forget their attitude against women. And we are so afraid of them.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. AP contributed to this report.

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