Vox pop | Afghanistan

“How are you doing?”

When the Taliban came to power, women in Afghanistan lost almost everything overnight: their rights, their jobs, their dignity. What are their concerns today? We asked Afghan women for a selfie, and asked the question: how are you doing?

A young woman with a black headscarf and glasses sits sideways in the frame of a wooden entrance door. Through the door you can see several flat buildings and a few trees. The woman is looking towards the horizon. In her lap is an open book. She wears a white dress with a black pattern.

Zakira: “Not only my body is locked up at home, but also my mind”

Lately, I have almost got used to the fact that all is not well. This is the new normal. Many of my friends from school days are no longer in Kabul. They have fled to other, better countries and lead a life there that could be called “normal”. But I can't. I was deprived of the right to study and develop. Living as a woman in Afghanistan today means that my own society does not consider me a human being.

I am denied the most simple basic rights, like the right to choose my own clothes, or the right to dream. For me, this is the most bitter aspect: not only my body is locked up at home, but also my mind. I used to dream of becoming president one day. Now I can no longer dream.

Zakira *2009 in Kabul, attended grade 11 before the Taliban came to power

A portrait of a young Afghan woman with headscarf. She has large brown expressive eyes. Her look is resigned.

Farahdiba: “I feel my strength leaving me”

“I feel my strength leaving me”

For a long time I worked as a security expert for the Afghan Ministry of Finance. My mother was responsible for gender issues for more than 15 years. Those were well-paid jobs. Since the return of the Taliban, all the women in the ministry were fired. Our situation deteriorated radically when we moved out of our flat five months ago and had to find a safe place to stay.

We had been warned that one of my brothers, a journalist, was on a Taliban death list. Another Taliban had declared that he was going to force one of my sisters to marry him. Today I share a house with my parents, my four sisters and two brothers. In order to afford food, my parents had to sell the TV, our refrigerator, several carpets and jewellery. I sent countless emails, including to contacts at the UN. No one answers me. As the days pass, I feel my strength leaving me.

Farahdiba Noori *1990 in Kabul, Masters in politics and management

A side profile of a woman. Over a blue and white patterned headscarf she wears a second light gray one with white dots. Her top is blue and white striped.

Treena: “Afghanistan is no longer a good place for men either”

“Afghanistan is no longer a good place for men either”

Before the return of the Taliban in August 2021, I had a good life and worked for a civil society organisation. Today, I am unemployed, just sitting around at home taking care of my little son. But Afghanistan is no longer a good place for men either. My husband used to work for the Ministry of Finance, then he was in prison, now he mostly stays at home with me. Neither of us has an income, and soon our savings will be exhausted. I don't know what will happen then. Only one thing is certain: there is no future for us in Afghanistan.

Treena *1984 in the province of Lugar, Bachelor degree in Law, married, mother of one son

A woman from behind. Hair shimmers through the light gray slightly transparent headscarf. The woman wears a black top.

Rabia: “For the Taliban, women like me are like a red rag to a bull”

“For the Taliban, women like me are like a red rag to a bull”

Before August 2021, I was the head of the Gender Equality Department at the Attorney General of Afghanistan; I was a well-known activist, had my own salary and a pretty good life. Today, I mostly stay at home, living with my sick mother, a brother and a sister. I have nothing to do but housework and I am completely destitute. Every day I live with the fear that they might come and get me. For the Taliban, women like me are like a red rag to a bull.

Rabia *1973 in Lugar Province, Masters in Administration and Accounting

Eine Frau sitzt gebeugt über einem Holztisch. Sie hält einen Stift in der Hand. Ihr Blick ist auf ein weißes Blatt gerichtet, das auf dem Tisch liegt. Ihr Kopftuch ist schwarz. Sie trägt ein längeres Beiges Oberteil mit schwarzen und weißen Streifen.

Sama: "All dreams and hopes seem to be lost".




“All my dreams and hopes seem lost”

Since I can no longer go to school, I mostly sit at home. Recently, Taliban supporters raided our house. My family and I are still very scared, we don't feel safe in our own homes. My parents have serious addiction problems with opium.

That's why life has never been easy for my sister and me. We both would rather not have to live with them anymore and look for a small room, but that is difficult in the current situation. I have always dreamed of one day becoming a jewellery designer and opening my own shop. Now all my dreams and hopes seem lost.

Sama *2008 in Kabul – she went to grade 10 at school until the Taliban took power

A young woman in side profile sits in a living room. She wears a headscarf with colorful flowers. Her top is purple.

Shukufa: “Women all over the world should have the right to be free”

“Women all over the world should have the right to be free”

I think women all over the world should have the right to be free, to educate themselves and to follow their dreams. Instead, as a woman in Afghanistan, I am not even free to decide what to wear. Those who ignore the rules are intimidated and punished. Clothes are not worth the risk.

Sometimes I have the impression that Afghanistan is just a plaything for the world community. But it is not a game. For us who live here, it is bitterly serious. When I came to Kabul to register for the university entrance exam, I was not admitted. I wanted to study English, apply for a scholarship and study in a better country than Afghanistan. But right now, the door to further education is closed to me. This is very painful.

Shukufa *2000 in Kabul, Finished school, currently unemployed

A side profile of a young woman with black headscarf and white medical mask. She is wearing a mustard yellow top. In the background there is a small flat roof house in the crop.

Storai: “We depend on aid money”

“We depend on aid money”

I am studying administration and diplomacy at a UN school. I also work for a private educational institution that I myself co-founded. Children between the ages of four and twelve are taught there as part of a programme run by the Ministry of Education. Up to the sixth grade, there are also girls. In particular, English language lessons and the use of computers are promoted, and there is also a laboratory and a library.

Ultimately, I have to adjust to every new government and adapt somehow. The same is true for our staff. It is becoming more and more difficult to raise money for our school. We depend on aid money, but there is less and less of it.

Storai *1978 in Gardez in Khost province, student

A young woman with a loosely curved blue headscarf is sitting on a stone wall. She has crossed her legs. A cell phone lies on her right thigh. Her right hand is resting on the cell phone and her left hand is resting on her right hand with a gold wristwatch. She is wearing white wide pants, a long blue and white top and light sneakers.

Meena: “I miss being able to be with my friends”

“I miss being able to be with my friends”

I have been developing web applications for more than four years. Now I am a manager at a public school and a freelancer in the digital economy. The current situation is bearable for me because I can do my project work - but currently mostly working from my home. But the mess of regulations and lack of respect for women worries me a lot. It seems as if we have become invisible. I especially miss meeting up with my girlfriends, wearing colourful clothes and having some fun. I never imagined that I would long for such basic freedoms.

Meena *1997 in Ghazni Province, Bachelor Degree in Computer Science

A person from behind with white headscarf and black small flowers. She wears a black and white top.

Salma: “If the Taliban find out my identity they will kill me”

“If the Taliban find out my identity they will kill me”

I was a women's rights activist and taught at a public school. When the Taliban came, we took to the streets and demonstrated for our rights. They arrested many of us. I still don't know the whereabouts of one woman from our group. For this reason, we moved and now live in hiding. Life under the Taliban is very dangerous. Every day they impose new restrictions. Like so many of us, I don't know what else I can do. Only one thing is certain: if the Taliban find out my identity, they will kill me.

Salma *1993 in Punjir Province, Bachelor in Law, married with one son

A young woman with a brown headscarf sits behind a large white sewing machine with a blue border. In her left hand she has a blue and white patterned fabric. Her gaze is directed to her right hand. The right hand is covered by the sewing machine.

Amina: “We are like shadows”

“We are like shadows”

Everything that happens to us is uncertain. We women have no power to decide. We are like shadows. I feel bad because I could not go to school and now I am not allowed to work. One glimmer of hope in my life is attending a further education centre for women. Here I am learning the basics of tailoring. But I don't know how much longer this will last.

Amina *2002 in Kabul, had no opportunity to go to school, lives in Kabul

A young woman is standing outside a door. She is standing to the side. A black headscarf covers her head and most of her face. She looks along the brick wall of the house over a wall in the direction of multi-story buildings. The sky is blue with a few white clouds.

Hasti: “I wish, I had a small room for myself alone” 

“I wish I had a small room just for us”

A few years ago, I was married against my will. My husband is educated and was an activist for social causes. But our marriage didn't work for me. When the Taliban came to power and overthrew the government, he left me and our son. My son is in the sixth grade and does not understand why his father is no longer there. My husband married another woman and fled to Iran with her - yet I am not allowed to divorce him. That is against the law. Now I live in a very cramped place with my son, together with my father and my mother-in-law. I have no income at the moment, but I have to take care of everyone. I wish I could work. And I wish I had a small room to myself where I could live with my son.

Hasti *1993 in Bamiyan province, mother of one son, lives in Kabul, currently unemployed

A person with white blue headscarf from behind.

Liza: “We have fought so hard for our rights, and now we're just sitting at home” 

“We fought so hard for our rights, and now we’re just sitting at home”

From 2006 to February 2022, I worked for a bank and was involved with an NGO for the rights of women and girls. The latter provoked the Taliban to such an extent that I was threatened and persecuted. I had to give up my job and now live in constant fear, not least because of my 13 and 14 year old daughters. They have not been to school for months. The Taliban are only interested in Islamic theology studies. For them, we women are meaningless; only good for bearing children and doing housework - that's their opinion.

My daily routine is to read historical novels, spend some time on social media and do the housework. There are almost no films on TV anymore, children's cartoons are no longer allowed to depict people, only animals. Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp are no longer safe, which is why we now routinely change our phone numbers. We fought so hard for our rights and now we just sit around at home.

Liza *1978 in the province of Kapisa, studied language and literature. She is married, mother of two daughters