It was early night and Zahra, her mom and three sisters had been on their option to dinner at one other sister’s residence once they noticed folks operating and heard gunshots on the road. The Taliban are right here! folks screamed. In only a few minutes, every little thing modified for the 26-year-old resident of Herat, Afghanistans third-largest metropolis.
Zahra grew up in a largely Taliban-free Afghanistan, the place ladies dared to dream of careers and ladies received an training. For the previous 5 years, she has been working with native nonprofit organizations to boost consciousness for girls and press for gender equality.
Her goals and ambitions got here crashing down Thursday night because the Taliban swept into the town, planting their white flags emblazoned with an Islamic proclamation of religion in a central sq. as folks on bikes and in automobiles rushed to their houses.
Like most different residents, Zahra, her mother and father and 5 siblings at the moment are hunkering indoors, too scared to exit and apprehensive in regards to the future. The Associated Press selected to not establish her by her full identify to keep away from making her a goal.
I’m in huge shock, mentioned Zahra, a round-faced, soft-spoken younger girl. How can it’s doable for me as a girl who has labored so exhausting and tried to study and advance, to now have to cover myself and keep at residence?
Amid a lightning offensive over the previous a number of days, the Taliban now management greater than two-thirds of the nation, simply two weeks earlier than the U.S. plans to withdraw its final troops. And they’re slowly closing in on the capital, Kabul.
The UN refugee company says almost 250,000 Afghans have fled their houses because the finish of May amid fears the Taliban would reimpose their strict and ruthless interpretation of Islam, all however eliminating ladies’s rights. Eighty % of these displaced are ladies and kids.
“I’m… deeply disturbed by early indications that that the Taliban are imposing extreme restrictions on human rights within the areas beneath their management, significantly focusing on ladies and journalists,” Guterres told reporters. “It is particularly horrifying and heartbreaking to see reports of the hard won rights of Afghan girls and women being ripped away,” he added.
The UN chief warned that “directing assaults in opposition to civilians is a critical violation of worldwide humanitarian legislation and quantities to a conflict crime.”
The fundamentalist group ruled the country for five years until the 2001 US-led invasion. During that time, it forbade girls an education and women the right to work, and refused even to let them travel outside their homes without a male relative to accompany them. The Taliban also carried out public executions, chopped off the hands of thieves and stoned women accused of adultery.
There have been no confirmed reports of such extreme measures in areas the Taliban fighters recently seized. But militants were reported to have taken over some houses and set fire to at least one school.
At a park in Kabul, transformed since last week into a shelter for the displaced, families told the AP on Friday that girls riding home in a motorized rickshaw in the northern Takhar province were stopped and lashed for wearing revealing sandals.
A schoolteacher from the province said no one was allowed to go out to the market without a male escort. Some 3,000 families mainly from northern provinces recently taken over by the Taliban now live in tents inside the park, some on the sidewalks.
Zahra stopped going to the office about a month ago as the militants approached Herat, and she worked remotely from home. But on Thursday, Taliban fighters broke through the citys defensive lines, and she has been unable to work since.
Her eyes welled up with tears as she considered the possibility that she will not be able to return to work; that her 12-year-old sister will be unable to continue going to school (She loves learning”); that her older brother won’t be able play soccer; or that she received’t be capable of freely play the guitar once more. The instrument held on a wall behind her as she spoke.
She listed among the achievements made by ladies prior to now 20 years because the Taliban’s ouster incremental however significant features in what continues to be a deeply conservative, male-dominated society: Girls at the moment are at school, and ladies are in Parliament, authorities and enterprise.
Marianne OGrady, Kabul-based deputy nation director for Care International, mentioned the strides made by ladies over the previous twenty years have been dramatic, significantly in city areas, including she can’t see issues going again to the best way they had been, even with a Taliban takeover.
You cant uneducate thousands and thousands of individuals, she mentioned. If ladies “are again behind partitions and never capable of exit as a lot, no less than they will now educate their cousins and their neighbors and their very own youngsters in ways in which couldnt occur 25 years in the past.”
Still, a sense of dread appears to be omnipresent, particularly among women, as Taliban forces take more territory each day.
I feel we are like a bird who makes a nest for a living and spends all the time building it, but then suddenly and helplessly watches others destroy it, said Zarmina Kakar, a 26-year-old womens rights activist in Kabul.
Kakar was a year old when the Taliban entered Kabul the first time in 1996, and she recalled a time when her mother took her out to buy her ice cream, back when the Taliban ruled. Her mother was whipped by a Taliban fighter for revealing her face for a couple of minutes.
Today again, I feel that if Taliban come to power, we will return back to the same dark days, she said.
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