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Afghanistan – A Hell on Earth

Nigina Istanakzai-Zarifi in Afghanistan - 1998

By Nigina Istanakzai-Zarifi - Afghanistan Country Coordinator for Amnesty International UK

Kabul's sudden fall to the Taliban opened the gates of hell to the Afghan people. The promises of a new and better era, especially for women and girls, are fading. The return of brutal rule and entrenched patriarchy is upon us. The Afghan population know what the Taliban represent, despite their PR in recent days. Panic and fear have again become our everyday condition.

I was six years old when the U.S. and U.K. invaded Afghanistan in 2001. I have clear memories of how the Taliban rule impacted me as a child. I might not have understood everything that was happening to me back then, but I knew for sure my brothers had far better opportunities than me simply because they were male. Whilst they could go to school and play outside, I always had to be kept inside.

I remember receiving my early childhood education from my mother, grandmother, and aunt. They were all educated women, but the brutal Taliban rule had stripped them of all their dreams. After the arrival of the Taliban in 1996, they forced my aunt to drop out of her medical degree. She was one of the brightest and most brilliant women in our family, but she buried her dreams because of the Taliban's intimidation and violence.

Unfortunately, fear and anxiety once again surround the people of my country and my loved ones. In this state of stress, I have continued to contact my family to give them hope and strength, but it's getting more difficult to stay strong with each passing day.

Getting calls for support from my family and not having the capability to provide the help they need has been breaking me every day. The guilt of leaving them behind in fear, darkness, and isolation prevents me from continuing with my everyday life and work.

When I speak to my little cousin sisters in Afghanistan, I see my reflection in them. Fear and uncertainty shaped our entire generation. All we hoped for was a peaceful Afghanistan, and we lost our youth trying to achieve it. I fear the same for the coming generations as, after all that struggle and sacrifice, the people of Afghanistan face betrayal, hunger, and displacement.

We still have time to save the coming generations from oppression, but we need to act fast. The international community must stand as one and utilize all available support to prevent women and girls from being plunged back into darkness. Pushing for protecting human rights in Afghanistan will be a monumental task with the Taliban in control. However, to ensure Afghans can live in safety, security, and dignity, we need to face this reality with clear eyes. We need to secure commitments from the international community that ensure the people of Afghanistan, especially its women and girls, will not be abandoned. We need to do this now.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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