Afghanistan and Two Decades of Nation Building

Featured Illustration: Lida Afghan

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On August 15th, 2021, Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, alongside other major provinces, fell into the power of the Taliban, and the world silently watched. This is the same terrorist group that robbed all Afghans of their sanity and dreams from 1996 to 2001.

To try to put my fellow Afghans’ feelings during the past three weeks into words would be an impossible task for me. My words will not do them justice. The fact is, nobody’s will. We watched two decades of dream building crash into millions of pieces. We witnessed the persecution of the West and especially the United States as our people fell to their deaths after clinging to moving jets in an attempt to flee their homeland. Their birthplace.

I want the world to take a moment and just try to imagine the desperation and hopelessness of these Afghans. To what extent can you fear for your life when you decide that a jet’s wing is safer to hold onto than the land you were born and raised in? Imagine!

Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Afghanistan has achieved immensely in areas of education, economy, rural development, urbanization, and creativity. Let me be more specific about one of these achievements that is significantly being threatened by the return of the Taliban.

Afghan Women and Two Decades

There were zero girls in secondary school 22 years ago in Afghanistan. In the past two decades, this number has increased to 3.5 million and women make around a third of this figure. Women began partaking in activities that were otherwise prohibited under the Taliban regime. In the last two decades, we saw women in CEO and leadership positions. We saw women start and run businesses. We saw women become accomplished journalists, creators, and artists. All of these are basic human rights but were strictly prohibited by the Taliban rulings. By July 2019, 69 of the 249 seats in the lower house of parliament were held by women.

There has been a deluge of news from the Taliban claiming that under the new rulings, Afghan women are free to pursue education and continue working. The Taliban will maintain this image until they gain international recognition and validity. The truth is, the Taliban are still the same. Their ideology towards women has not changed. The Taliban are still “marrying” girls as young as 12-years-old and imprisoning them as sex slaves. It is important to emphasize that this barbarism mainly takes place in areas of Afghanistan where people have no access to the internet to reveal the Taliban’s reality to the world. This is extremely concerning for all the Afghans in the country and in the diaspora, as we have witnessed a surge in news headlines about this topic and soon Afghanistan will be out of the trending list. The world will once again forget about Afghanistan.

Women are still expected to dress according to the Taliban’s ruling. Women are still expected to have a male escort while out. Women are not allowed to experience life the way they have for the past two decades. A life where their voice mattered. A life where they had the right to be independent. A life where they were seen as equal to their brothers and male classmates and colleagues. Women will once again be robbed of their dignity, freedom, and dreams. A group of terrorists that have consistently seen women as a threat to their existence have not and will not change. While the world failed Afghanistan, let’s build it back together. This time, stronger than ever. Let’s be their voice in the West. Not as Afghans or non-Afghans, but as human beings. I will leave you all with a quote that will be the perfect ending to my piece:

“Remember your humanity, forget the rest.” -Bertrand Russel