Afghan women between despair and resistance

Madame Jamie in the little garden now spends her days farmingPhoto: Radio Canada / Marie-Yves Bedard

She only has a small piece of garden, but it is enough to keep her mind and hands occupied. Among the rows of sunflowers starting to bloom and vines, Mrs. Jamie sighs and remembers how far she has come. It was this woman in her fifties that it took 20 years to make up for the delay imposed by the first version of the Taliban government.

When I was young, the situation did not allow me to study: schools were closed, we lived under the strict rules of the Taliban.

But with Al-Bustani’s steadfastness, Mrs. Jami went from illiterate to educated. A lonely woman, she finally started working. Next to the garden, on the walls of an earthen shelter, you can still see pictures of jars of about twenty pickles that I offered for sale.

My food business was a direct and indirect source of income for about 100 employees.

A source of livelihood, independence and pride. But with the return of the Taliban to power, that is all over.

Business cannot be done by hiding or covering up. You cannot do business by wearing a burqa. Nobody encourages us or supports us. We have lost everything.

That’s all that was left of what Ms. Jamie’s staff managed to put into jars and bags.Photo: Radio Canada / Marie-Yves Bedard

What’s left of her prepared pickles, spices, and dried herbs gather dust in a small room in her house. But his pride remains. She refuses to compare herself to the country’s new leaders.

They are ignorant, they know nothing. They lived in the mountains and kept their women as slaves.

In Herat, western Afghanistan, one of two stores in the small women’s shopping center that she founded with the help of foreign donations has closed. And customers are scarce for those who stick around.

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Fouzia Saadat provides tailoring services there. Leaning on her sewing machine, we feel all the bitterness of this woman.

Fouzia Saadat has previously helped more than 500 women. Today, she does a small sewing business.Photo: Radio Canada / Marie-Yves Bedard

I’m single, you knowshe says immediately.

But today, she has no choice but to do manual labor to support an entire family. It no longer counts what it lost with the rise of the Taliban to power.

Her eldest son died and the other was hiding in the house. So did her husband after the new rulers imprisoned him for six months. His two daughters no longer have the right to education.

I am the only one who can provide for my family at a time when we are in a catastrophic situation. We are not safe.

Ms. Saadat says the fear in her stomach never leaves her. She stretched out her hands, no longer calmed by her tremors.

We are trapped in an inevitable situation. We are stuck there not only physically but mentally as well. All women suffer from depression and we sufferShe said, her voice choking with sobbing.

Depression is a word that appears frequently in conversations with Afghan women. Despite everything, many of them still want to send a clear message to the Taliban. They are not what they were 20 years ago and refuse to go back to the past. This message, they send first on the streets of big cities.

We meet them especially on the busy streets of Kabul. They’ve had their faces revealed, sometimes makeup… and they don’t intend to cover up more than they already do.

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It is a form of resistance to the decree issued by the Taliban a month ago.

Allah Hafez wears a simple white veil and an abaya that covers her body up to her knees.

There is no better veil than this, she says. We have more serious problems. There is no work for people. The Taliban should create jobs, not pay salaries.

According to the edict issued by the Taliban last May, those women who refuse to wear the Islamic dress they believe is correct – that is, it should cover the entire face except for the eyes – causes people to run men from their families prison.

This mandatory dress code is only the latest in the increasingly stringent restrictions placed on Afghan women.

Removing them from politics and public office, they also forbade women from flying—either domestically or internationally—without a MuharramMale guardian.

Illiterate women seek education without the knowledge of the Taliban.Photo: Radio Canada / Marie-Yves Bedard

In a very small room of a house out of sight, a few dozen women are huddled from head to toe reciting the alphabet.

On the board, Azita shows them how each letter should be written.

It’s not his job. However, after she lost her desk job and gave up going to class at the university, the young woman could not see herself sitting at home doing nothing.

Azita worked in a private company and was pursuing her university education. All this ended with the return of the Taliban to power.Photo: Radio Canada / Marie-Yves Bedard

In their public discourses, the Taliban claim to respect and defend women’s rights. Instead, you see them disappearing one by one.

How do they claim to defend women’s rights? Education is the basis of women’s rights as it is for men. The education of women is fundamental to the entire society. Families need educated women.

It gives her time to secretly teach illiterate women, and above all young girls. They arrive one by one, scrambling in laughter to take their place behind the little work tables. They are the ones who are now being denied access to school offices by the Taliban.

High school girls can no longer go to school since the Taliban came to power. But they reject the backwardness of their education.Photo: Radio Canada / Marie-Yves Bedard

Azita says, we can see the girls’ interest in their education and studies. Each had a goal, but their motivations were shattered when the schools closed.

At the end of the summer of 2021, young girls from the sixth grade were expelled from schools. Despite repeated promises by the Taliban government to reintegrate them into the classroom, it is now a full academic year they have been denied.

Donia, 12 years old, dreams of becoming a doctor. She says that even access to basic health care is nearly impossible for women today.Photo: Radio Canada / Marie-Yves Bedard

Donia rushes to raise her hand in front of her friends whenever Azita interrogates the class. She travels miles to get here despite the ban.

Why should I be afraid? Now is the time to study. If we don’t, we will be old and unable to get an education.

The last female resistance fighters in Afghanistan are the women, she says, who have been willing to trust. They cling to the present every day, determined to save their future.

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