A year after the Taliban swept through Kabul, Afghans who chose to stay behind as thousands fled are coming to terms with the impact of their decision.
Women’s rights severely curtailed, a collapsed economy and millions experiencing hunger have left some wondering if they made the right call.
Before the Taliban takeover, 23-year-old Susan Hamidi worked as a legal adviser, providing support to Afghan women dealing with domestic violence. She had also launched her own YouTube channel, in 2019, covering social as well as entertainment stories from her city of Kabul.
“I used to work as a video producer at a media company as well, and was very active in the civil society groups,” the mother of one said. “Despite the increasing security issues, there was hope. My husband and I had just started our small family.
“I never imagined that we would lose everything within days. I still can’t believe it sometimes … that Afghanistan is once again under the Taliban control.”
Ms Hamidi was very young when the Taliban controlled the country in the late 1990s and had not experienced the curtailment of women’s rights by the extremist group. Now her baby looks set to grow up under the newest Taliban regime after US and Nato troops left Afghanistan in August last year.
The group have also been cracking down on the Afghan media environment that has grown significantly in the last two decades. Ms Hamidi lost her job, was forced to limit her YouTube channel, and became very cautious about her movement.
“Everything Afghanistan achieved in 20 years we lost,” she said. “Our basic rights, women’s freedoms, our choice, but most of all our diversity and the sense of unity, it has all been eroded.” She added that the city that she had once felt she owned was unfamiliar to her.
Even those newer to Afghanistan hoped to continue living a somewhat normal life under the Taliban. Raha Amiri, 18, managed to spend just two free years in Kabul after returning from the neighbouring country her parents fled to during in the 1990s.
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