When the Taliban came into Afghanistan in the fall of 1996, I was 17 and I lived with my family. Girls were graduating from schools, many from the university, and most worked outside their homes.

When the Taliban came to our village, everyone wanted to see them and how they behaved. It was a sunny day, so calm it seemed nothing was alive. All the streets were quiet. I stood behind our door and saw some of them passing on the street.

They all had long beards and hair and it seemed that it was long time since they had washed. They seemed strange, and cranky. Their hatred against women was clear on their faces.

My brothers who were 19 and 15 went to the bazaar. When they came back, they told us that they hadn’t seen any men walking in the street. Everyone thought all the people had died. This news really shocked me because when men don’t dare to walk outside, what about women!

During their regime, many Afghan women were hit, whipped, and even killed by the Taliban. Women knew that their life was in danger. We couldn’t even say what we wanted.

This dark time forced most of my friends and neighbors to emigrate, but some of us stayed and hoped for our future. Each of us tried to keep busy any way we could, but sometimes it was very difficult. We read books and cooked different foods.

I read all kinds of books—schoolbooks, novels, and Islamic books. In Islamic books I learned how Islam gives rights to women, rights that were ignored during this time.

From my mother, who is a good cook, I learned to prepare different and special Afghan food: rice with meat, mantu (dumplings), and different sweets and cakes.

Whenever I cooked a new food, my brothers called to me, “Oh, you are really a good cook! We smell your dishes from the yard and want to come in the kitchen and eat it all!”

When I found free time I would sit in the corner of my house and just look at the sun. I remember my sister saying, “After every darkness there is daylight.” At night I watched the moon and compared it to my life—as dark as the night.

At the same time, an invisible hand shook me from behind, reminding me of my sister saying, “There will be daylight in your life soon.” This made me happy and encouraged me to plan for my future.

Even though it took me five years, I did what I wanted and carried out most of my plans.

By Fariba