Afghan women between desperation and resistance

Madame Jami in the little garden she now spends her days tendingPhoto: Radio Canada / Marie-Eve Bedard

She only has a tiny piece of yard, but that’s enough to keep her and her hands busy. Between the rows of sunflowers beginning to bloom and the vines, Mrs. Jami sighs, remembering how far she’s come. This woman in her 50s had taken 20 years to catch up with 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 didn’t allow me to study: the schools were closed, we lived under the strict rules of the Taliban.

But with the gardener’s steadfastness, Mrs. Jami went from illiterate to educated. As a woman and alone, she finally went into business. Next to the garden, on the walls of a turf hut, you can still see the images of the jars with about twenty cucumbers that she offered for sale.

My grocery store was a direct and indirect source of income for about 100 employees.

A source of income, independence and pride. But all that came to an end when the Taliban returned to power.

It is not possible to do business by hiding or covering up. You can’t do business with the burqa. Nobody encourages or supports us. We lost everything.

That’s all Mrs. Jami’s staff could fill in jars and sachets.Photo: Radio Canada / Marie-Eve Bedard

What’s left of her prepared pickles, spices, and dried herbs gathers dust in a small room of her house. But his pride remains intact. 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 wives as slaves.

In Herat, in western Afghanistan, every second shop in the small women’s shopping center that she founded with the help of foreign donations is closed. And clients are rare for those who persevere.

Fawzia Sahadat offers sewing services there. As we bend over her sewing machine, we sense all of this woman’s bitterness.

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

I’m a bachelor, you knowshe says immediately.

But today she has no choice but to do manual labor to support an entire family. What she lost when the Taliban took power no longer counts.

Her eldest son is dead, the other is hiding at home. So did her husband after being detained for six months by the new authorities. His two daughters no longer have the right to an education.

I am the only one who can support my family at a time when we are suffering from a catastrophic situation. We are not sure.

The fear in her stomach never leaves her, says Ms. Sahadat. She stretches out her hands, whose trembling she can no longer calm.

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

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

We mainly meet them on the busy streets of Kabul. They have their faces uncovered, sometimes made up… and they have no intention of covering themselves 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 to the knees.

There is no better hijab than this one, she says. We have more serious problems. There is no work for the people. The Taliban are supposed 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 is correct – meaning that it must cover the whole face except for the eyes – trick people into making men theirs Putting families at risk of being locked up.

This mandatory dress code is just the latest of the increasingly stringent restrictions imposed on Afghan women.

After banning them from politics and public office, they also prevented women from flying — nationally or internationally — without one 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, which cannot be seen, a few dozen women, covered from head to toe, pile up to recite the alphabet.

At the blackboard, Azita shows them how to write each character.

It’s not his job. However, after losing her office job and stopping showing up for classes at the university, the young woman could not imagine sitting at home and doing nothing.

Azita worked in a private company and pursued a university education. All of this ended with the return of the Taliban to power.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 like men’s. A woman’s education is fundamental to society as a whole. Families need educated women.

The young girls of this clandestine class try as best they can to complete their education.Photo: Radio Canada / Marie-Eve Bedard

She devotes her time to secretly tutoring the illiterate and mostly young girls. They arrive one by one, bursting into laughter to take their places behind the small work tables. They are the ones the Taliban are now banning from school desks.

Since the Taliban took power, secondary school girls have not been able to go to school. But they refuse to fall behind in their education.Photo: Radio Canada / Marie-Eve Bedard

We see the girls’ interest in their schooling and studies, says Azita. Each of them had a goal, but their motivation was shaken when schools closed.

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

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

Dounia quickly raises her hand in front of her friends when Azita questions the class. She travels miles to get here despite the ban.

Why should I be afraid? The time to learn is now. If we don’t do this, we’ll grow old and we won’t be able to get an education.

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

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