My mother is now sixty years old and she tells me about the good life that she and women like her experienced in the days before the Taliban came. Having a great past did not mean that she was entirely satisfied with family life, but she had a working life and a social life outside the home.
For thirty-three years she has been a teacher and a headmaster or principal at a primary school and now she teaches Dari literature at a high school. My sister and I were among her students when we were starting school in first and second classes. This meant she left home every day to go to work in Kabul and then later in Mazar-e-Sharif. She got a Bachelor’s Degree in Dari Literature and she enjoyed social and political activities.
She was an independent woman. Having her own income gave her energy and happiness, and this in turn had a good influence on my sister and me.
When the Taliban came to north Afghanistan I was turning sixteen and graduating from high school. I remember well the last exam before our high school graduation and what we were worried about was whether we would be able to take our final exams to graduate. I really do not know what was in the minds of the Taliban that week, but they let us go out in burqas to pass the last exam.
But after the arrival of the Taliban, life changed. My mother had to stay at home and she lost her income and all of her independence. She and my sisters and I all had to work day and night at home to earn some income and help my father during that time with the expenses. We had to earn enough money to prevent my father from marrying us to a Taliban man just in order to keep our family alive and solvent. My mother and my four sisters and I spent our time tailoring, embroidering, and teaching children from the Holy Quran in our home.
Except from the standpoint of safety and security, my sisters and I have had better childhoods than my mother. Until the Taliban came, we didn’t have to worry about the family expenses. I remember we had good opportunities, public services, access to modern equipment, and other advantages. During my mother’s childhood in the 1950s and 1960s she did not have television or radio or computers or taxis.
Times have changed since then. Now I am a mother of twins—a girl and a boy—and I am very worried about their future in Afghanistan. Every day I am concerned about their safety and about how to keep them safe and give them a good life with all the things they need and are essential for their development.
I am one of many women who suffer from family life. I don’t have the peace and happiness that I hoped for, like an independent life without the interference of relatives. I try my best to give all my love and attention to my babies. My husband has a good income, and I have a job in education. I have to take care of all the expenses of the children, like kindergarten fees, food, clothes, doctor bills, and anything else they need. My husband would prefer that I stay home and not work, but I don’t want to stay home.
Unfortunately I don’t see a bright future for my country. Writing this hurts me, but it is reality. I hope the day will come when I will have a calm, happy life, one in which my little family could have our own home—even it if takes thirty years to happen.
Most of the other Afghan mothers I know are all thinking the same thing and feeling the same way. We want to live independently, not with our husbands’ families. We all want to take care of our children and our families and to provide them with good, happy, and peaceful futures—inshallah.
Photo by Evgeni Zotov.