Afghan women, between despair and resistance

Madame Jami in the little garden she is busy with nowPhoto: Radio-Canada / Marie-Eve Bedard

She only has a small patch of garden, but it’s enough to keep her head and hands busy. Between the rows of sunflowers beginning to bloom and the vines, Mrs. Jami sighs as she remembers how far she’s come. This woman in her 50s had taken 20 years to make up for the delay imposed by the first version of a Taliban government.

: les écoles étaient fermées, nous vivions sous les règles sévères des talibans.”,”text”:”Quand j’étais petite, la situation ne m’a pas permis d’étudier: les écoles étaient fermées, nous vivions sous les règles sévères des talibans.”}}”>When I was little, the situation did not allow me to study: the schools were closed, we lived under the strict rules of the Taliban.

But with the gardener’s fortitude, Mrs. Jami went from illiterate to higher education. A woman and alone, she eventually went into business. Next to the garden, on the walls of an earthen shelter, you can still see the pictures of the jars of about twenty gherkins that she offered for sale.

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

A source of income, independence and pride. But that came to an end with the return to power of the Taliban.

It is not possible to do business by hiding or covering yourself. You can’t do business with the burqa. No one encourages or supports us. We’ve lost everything.

This is all that remains of what Mrs. Jami’s employees have been able to do in jars and sachets.Photo: Radio-Canada / Marie-Eve Bedard

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

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

In Herat, in western Afghanistan, one in two stores has closed in the small shopping center for women that she set up with help from foreign donations. And customers are rare for those who persist.

Fawzia Sahadat offers sewing services there. Leaning over her sewing machine, we feel all this woman’s bitterness.

Fawzia Sahadat previously helped more than 500 women. Today she does small sewing.Photo: Radio-Canada / Marie-Eve Bedard

I’m a bachelor, you know?she says immediately.

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

Her eldest son is dead, the other is in hiding at home. So did her husband, after he was imprisoned by the new rulers for six months. His two daughters no longer have the right to education.

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

The fear in her stomach never leaves her, says Mrs Sahadat. She stretches out her hands, the vibrations of which she can no longer calm.

We are trapped in a situation where there is no escape. We are not only physically but also mentally stuck there. All women suffer from depression and we are in painshe said, her voice choked with a sob.

Depression is a word that often comes up in conversations with Afghan women. Despite everything, some of them continue to want to send a clear message to the Taliban. They are not what they were 20 years ago and they refuse to go back to the past. They send this message first on the streets of the big cities.

We mainly encounter them in the busy streets of Kabul. They have their faces uncovered, sometimes made up… and they don’t intend to cover any more than they already do.

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

Allah Hafiz wears a simple white veil and a cloak that covers her body down to her knees.

There’s no better hijab than this one, she says. We have more serious problems. There is no work for people. The Taliban have to create jobs, they don’t pay salaries.

According to the decree issued by the Taliban last May, these women who refuse to wear Islamic clothing that they believe are correct – that is, it should cover the entire face except the eyes – will ensure that men of their families do not wear it. risk being imprisoned.

This mandatory dress code is just the latest in increasingly strict restrictions being imposed on Afghan women.

After banning them from politics and public office, they also prevented women—both national and international—from flying without a mahrama male guardian.

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

In a very small room of a house out of sight, several dozen women pile up, covered from head to toe, to say the alphabet.

On the board, Azita shows how to write each of the characters.

It’s not his job. But after losing her desk job and giving up to go to college, the young woman couldn’t see herself sitting at home doing nothing.

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

In their public speeches, the Taliban claim to respect and defend women’s rights. Azita instead sees them disappear one by one.

How can they claim to defend women’s rights? Education is the foundation of women’s rights, just as it is for men. A woman’s education is essential to all of society. Families need well-educated women.

The young girls of this clandestine class are doing their best to complete their education.Photo: Radio-Canada / Marie-Eve Bedard

She gives her time to clandestinely teach illiterate women and especially young girls. They arrive one by one, laughing jostling to take their place behind the small work tables. They are the ones who are now banned from school by the Taliban.

High school girls have been banned from school since the Taliban came to power. But they refuse to fall behind in their education.Photo: Radio-Canada / Marie-Eve Bedard

We see that the girls are interested in their education and in their studies, Azita says. Each of them had a purpose, but their motivation was shattered when the schools closed.

At the end of the summer of 2021, young girls from the sixth grade were expelled from school. Despite repeated promises by the Taliban government to reintegrate them into the classroom, they have now been taken from an entire school year.

Dounia, 12, dreams of becoming a doctor. Even getting basic health care has become nearly impossible for women these days, she says.Photo: Radio-Canada / Marie-Eve Bedard

Dounia quickly raises her hand for her friends as Azita questions the class. She travels miles to get here, despite the ban.

Why should I be afraid? The time to study is now. If we don’t, we’ll grow old and get no education.

The last resistance fighters in Afghanistan are the women, say those who were willing to confide in them. They cling to the present every day, determined to save their future.

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