Afghanistan: Women struggle for survival two years under Taliban rule

Maryam’s life has undergone profound changes in the past two years since the Taliban took over power in Afghanistan.

The 27-year-old Afghan woman used to work as a database officer for an international education project before the Taliban’s ascent to power.

Following the subsequent closure of the project, Maryam lost her job.

She then transitioned into a teaching role at a private girls’ school, a position she could only maintain for a year before the Taliban-led administration prohibited girls from attending high schools and universities.

Not one to easily surrender, Maryam decided to establish a sewing workshop six months ago, hiring 15 of her former colleagues who had lost their jobs due to the Taliban takeover.

“I never turned back, nor did I ever give up, I continued on my path. Although there are no educational opportunities after the Taliban closed schools and universities (for women), our minds can’t be restricted. We can use our minds and fight against them,” said Maryam, who is identified by her first name only due to safety concerns.

Maryam trained the women in sewing traditional Afghan attire and hijabs, capitalizing on the one-year course she completed four years ago.

Their products are now available for sale online to both domestic and international customers.

Maryam noted a rapid increase in their customer base and expressed optimism that the business will continue to expand. She even envisions opening branches in countries such as Germany, the United States, and Canada with the support of her relatives residing there.

For many, life took a turn when the Taliban entered the Afghan capital on August 15, 2021, following the departure of U.S.-backed President Ashraf Ghani and the subsequent disintegration of Afghan security forces, which had been developed with years of Western assistance.

“I don’t feel good and I’m not happy about this day; right now they (the Taliban) are not ruling the country in the interest of the people. I don’t understand why they are so negative about women. They said they were able to provide security for the people, but there hasn’t been much better security,” voiced 60-year-old Khadija.

Afghanistan is experiencing a level of peace not seen in decades. However, the United Nations reports dozens of attacks on civilians, some claimed by the Taliban’s rivals, the Islamic State.

For numerous women who enjoyed extensive rights and freedoms during the two decades of Western-backed government rule, their situation has become dire since the Taliban’s return.

“I didn’t think the Taliban would take over the country one day, and after they succeeded, their restrictions on women have increased day by day and caused us many problems. As far as I am concerned, the ‘victory day’ of the Taliban is the worst day for the people of Afghanistan,” lamented 24-year-old Hosna.