Anxious Afghan Women Hide at Home as Taliban-Occupied Kabul Turns Quiet

The streets of Afghanistan's capital were empty a day after the Taliban took over, as universities, schools and shops remained closed.

Aug 16 2021, 8:31am

KABUL, Afghanistan – A day after widespread panic in Kabul, the streets of Afghanistan’s capital were eerily quiet and empty as people wondered nervously what the return of Taliban rule meant for them.

Many residents, especially women, chose to stay home, while workplaces, shops, and universities remained closed on Monday, the morning after government officials fled and the Taliban took over the capital and the presidential palace.

While the Taliban has given assurances that women will be able to maintain their right to work and go to school, many doubted the statements.

“I had a comfortable and good life. I continued my work, duties, and sports as usual. I used to go out without any fear and followed my daily plans,” a 22-year-old student told VICE World News. Now, she doesn’t know if she will be able to continue her master’s in politics or continue her gym workouts, which she called “the only joy of my life.” 

Advertisement

But that’s the least of her concerns.

“I am more afraid of rape and harshness for women, living under captivity and coercion, and that all our efforts in the last twenty years will be wasted,” she said. “Living under Taliban rule was a bitter experience in the past. Nothing is unlikely with the Taliban.” 

Kabul's streets are empty the day after the Taliban took control of the capital. Photo sourced by VICE World News

An Afghan journalist echoed her concerns. 

She said she is afraid and worried that life as she knows it is about to change, and that they will return to the “very dark time” of the previous Taliban regime, which was ousted some 20 years ago.

“I'm worried about them restricting women’s activities, and freedom of speech,” the 27-year-old told VICE World News. “I’m worried about the women… who worked so hard and made progress, who have made achievements for the country and themselves.”

A fear of death is particularly pervasive among independent women who have defied the Taliban’s expectations, especially as armed fighters roamed the streets.

A national athlete and women’s advocate VICE World News spoke with was also worried about what the Taliban “would do with me.”

“Now the Taliban are in front of my home,” she told VICE World News. “I can’t go out and I know I’m not safe here. The Taliban will kill me. They don’t like women like me.” 

“I can’t go out and I know I’m not safe here. The Taliban will kill me. They don’t like women like me.”

The Taliban were in power in Afghanistan from 1996, until they were overthrown in 2001 by a U.S.-backed government. The Islamic fundamentalist group prohibited girls from going to school and women from working or playing sports; banned music, movies and television; and were accused of various human rights abuses, particularly as their brand of justice strictly followed their interpretation of Sharia law including punishments like stoning and amputations. 

In an interview with the BBC, Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen attempted to reassure women that they have nothing to fear and that “they can live their life normally.”

Advertisement

“They should not be scared. Their right to education and work is there,” he said on Sunday. “We have a commitment to that.” He also said the Taliban would not exact revenge on anyone.

Shops, schools and workplaces remained closed in Kabul, a day after the government collapsed. Photo sourced by VICE World News

But while the city awaits what’s next for them and the Taliban seeks an official transfer of power in the next few days, Kabul residents already felt some changes. 

With no way out of the country, women hid at home, as the passport department remained closed and the Kabul airport descended into chaos. Workers took down photos of women from the walls of their shops and beauty salons. On television, usual shows were replaced with religious programming despite Shaheen vowing that freedom of expression and speech would be respected. Some local news programs were still airing as of publication time.

Over the past few weeks – as the U.S. finalised the withdrawal of their troops after 20 years of war – the Taliban have gained territory at an aggressive pace, taking control of key cities, and ultimately resulting in a speedy takeover of the country. 

It was difficult for women to not feel frustrated over the perceived betrayal by the U.S., a sentiment shared by many Afghans trapped in uncertainty and fear.

“While American troops were here in Afghanistan, all people, especially Kabul residents and women, lived normally,” the journalist said. “When the Americans left, all irregularity and insecurity happened again.” 

The student said she wants people outside to know about how bad the situation is for women, and asked that the international community and the United Nations not look away from what’s happening in Afghanistan.

“Other countries should not sacrifice people because of their policies,” she said. “They should not limit the achievements of women.”

Update 08/16/2021: The story has been updated to further anonymize sources.

Tagged:

Taliban, Kabul, women's rights, worldnews

More
like this
Why Are There Two Bronze Medal Winners in Olympic Boxing?
Japan’s Star Surfer Has the Cutest Reactions to Thirsty Fans on TikTok
War Left Them With Permanent Disabilities. The Return of the Taliban Is Reopening Old Wounds.
How the Philippines Achieved Its Best Olympics After Nearly 100 Years
Bukayo Saka: The Fast and the Fearless
Logan Paul Was Right. His Fight With Mayweather Was ‘Fucking Stupid.’
Australian Olympians Trashed Their Rooms in Tokyo and Got Hammered on Flight Home
How the Philippines Became a Boxing Powerhouse