Impressed by their mom, Afghan sisters Sadaf and Zolheja dream of turning into businesswomen. However for now, solely Sadaf seems poised to satisfy that ambition, whereas Zolheja has been thwarted by the Taliban’s ban on ladies attending universities.
“Evidently I’ve to bury all my objectives,” Zolheja, 19, advised NBC Information through WhatsApp from her house in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, earlier this yr, including that she has been compelled to surrender her enterprise administration course after the ban got here into impact final month. (NBC Information has verified the sisters’ identities however agreed to not use their final identify as a result of they concern reprisals from the Taliban.)
She mentioned she now spends her days “pondering, crying, looking and attempting to use for scholarships in order that I can get the possibility to go someplace else to review.”
“I’ll go anyplace,” she mentioned.
Her older sister, Sadaf, 21, mentioned that she was evacuated from Afghanistan in August 2021, shortly after the Taliban seized energy. She added that she was eligible to to migrate to the USA due to her work at a nongovernmental group that targeted on training and is now finding out enterprise administration on a scholarship on the College of Tulsa in Oklahoma.
“I had to do that, I needed to come right here to help my household,” she mentioned.
Although the Taliban initially promised a extra average rule and pledged to respect the rights of ladies and minorities, they’ve applied their strict interpretation of Islamic regulation, or the Sharia, since they took management. Consequently, the nation has change into essentially the most repressive on this planet for girls and women, disadvantaged of lots of their primary rights, the United Nations mentioned Wednesday.
Ladies have been barred from most fields of employment, ordered to put on head-to-toe clothes in public and prevented from utilizing parks and gymnasiums. After banning women from center college and highschool final spring, the Taliban started imposing the next training ban on ladies in December by blocking their entry to universities.
Zolheja mentioned she discovered in regards to the ban when she arrived at her college and was blocked from getting into, together with many different feminine college students.
“The day that they introduced the ban, I felt like they killed us,” she mentioned. “We’re people, we have to stay the best way we need to, not the best way that Taliban needs us to stay.”
Her mom was significantly unhappy for her, as a result of her personal desires had been crushed after the Taliban applied a ban on feminine training after they first got here to energy in 1996, she mentioned.
“She had this expertise earlier than and is aware of how a lot it hurts,” Zolheja mentioned.
Sadaf added that their mother had needed to renew her research after the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, prompted by the Taliban’s refusal handy over Osama bin Laden, the Al Qaeda chief and mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist assaults.
On the time, entry to training grew to become out there for girls throughout the nation however, Sadaf mentioned, she couldn’t acquire paperwork proving that she had already accomplished nearly all of her research and didn’t need to begin over once more.
As a substitute, Sadaf mentioned, their mother stayed house and shouldered the chores “simply so we may deal with our research.”
Their father was additionally supportive of their academic endeavors, she mentioned, including that he didn’t need them to be “ladies who’re simply inside the home, cooking and cleansing.”
“I’m so grateful that I’ve dad and mom like them,” she mentioned.
That help didn’t waver after the Taliban took over and, after some emotional conversations as a household, they determined it was greatest for her to depart the nation with the assistance of her NGO.
“I used to be simply attempting to flee Afghanistan,” she mentioned, including that their goodbye was rushed as she launched into what could be her first journey outdoors the nation from Kabul Worldwide Airport.
By tears, her mom advised her to “keep secure,” Sadaf mentioned, weeping as she recalled their parting.
She added that she referred to as her mom from the aircraft and advised her, “I’m flying.”
After touching down in Qatar, she flew to the Ramstein Air Base in southwestern Germany, earlier than making her technique to Washington, D.C.. From there, she went to Texas after which to a camp in New Mexico the place she stayed for practically two months. Lastly, she mentioned, she headed to her new house in Tulsa, the place she knew individuals affiliated with the NGO she labored with in Afghanistan. (A U.S. official with information of Sadaf’s journey confirmed it to NBC Information.)
Her first actual house within the U.S. was a dorm on the College of Tulsa, which had began a help program for fleeing Afghans. A job as a case supervisor and interpreter at a resettlement company quickly adopted, earlier than she was accepted to the college on a full scholarship.
Sadaf mentioned she missed “every part” about her homeland, particularly her household, and the adjustment to life in Oklahoma had been tough. However whereas additionally finding out English, she earned a 4.0 GPA her first semester.
At present within the U.S. on a humanitarian parole standing, she mentioned she was making use of for asylum and hopes to use for a inexperienced card. Finally, she mentioned, she hopes to convey her household to the U.S. and there are a number of methods she may do that together with the brand new Welcome Corps program, launched by the State Division final month, which can enable personal U.S. residents to sponsor refugees.
Again in Afghanistan, the ban on feminine training stays in place regardless of worldwide condemnation from Western international locations, in addition to extra hard-line Muslim majority nations. Together with Turkey, Qatar and Pakistan, Saudi Arabia — which till 2019 enforced sweeping restrictions on ladies’s journey, employment and different essential points of their each day life together with driving — urged the Taliban to alter course.
The ban additionally triggered a number of protests inside Afghanistan, the place simply over 100,000 of the nation’s 20 million ladies had been enrolled in increased training in 2021, in keeping with knowledge collected by the nation’s Schooling Ministry and printed by its Nationwide Statistics and Data Authority in Might.
To date, the Taliban have proven little signal of reversing the coverage, together with a separate ban on Afghan ladies from working at nongovernmental organizations that it additionally launched final month. The group claimed feminine employees weren’t carrying the Islamic scarf appropriately.
A number of senior members of the Taliban declined to remark when requested about whether or not they are going to restore training for girls and women. Additionally they declined to touch upon whether or not ladies and women could be allowed to work for NGOs.
Whereas some Western establishments are working digital programs for Afghan college students, in 2020 solely 18% of Afghans had web entry, in keeping with the most recent out there knowledge from the World Financial institution.
Consequently, Zolheja mentioned she felt like “a fowl inside a cage who needs to fly however can’t,” including, “I really feel like I don’t have any purpose to stay and any good future to be ready for.”
Whereas Sadaf’s future appears rather a lot brighter, she stays saddened by her sister’s plight and that of different ladies in her homeland.
The sisters chat through textual content once they can — however Sadaf mentioned that when she is alone, ideas flood her thoughts about her household’s future, Zolheja’s particularly.
“Simply staying at house and never doing something, it bothers me and my sister rather a lot,” she mentioned. “I can’t do something for her, that’s what saddens me.”
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