‘Dark Prison Mirrors the Dark Future of Afghan Women’: A Firsthand Account of a Former Taliban Prisoner


A protest in London on on Aug. 21, 2021, towards the Taliban takeover. (Gerry Popplestone / Flickr)

For the reason that fall of Kabul on Aug. 15, 2021, Afghanistan’s girls—a lot of whom devoted their lives and careers to working for equality—have skilled a scientific marketing campaign of violence and subjugation. Over the past 12 months, the Taliban have aggressively decimated girls’s rights, issuing edicts forbidding women from attending secondary school and grownup girls from working outside the home, and mandating full-body coverings for ladies in public.

Many ladies took to the streets to protest, and in flip have been crushed, arrested, tortured and murdered. Under, activist-journalist Mursal Ayar‘s firsthand account of her life and arrest is a strong reminder of our frequent humanity, and the obligation all of us share to guard the world’s most weak—but outstanding—activists. 

Laura Deitz and Sara Gilliam are co-founders of Task Force Nyx, a women-led, all-volunteer NGO, which fights for the futures and freedoms of all Afghan women and women by amplifying the voices of Afghan girls’s rights leaders and offering emergency humanitarian help to essentially the most at-risk activists and their households. They met Ayar shortly earlier than her arrest and assisted together with her evacuation to a neighboring nation. They helped edit the interpretation of the essay beneath, which Ayar wrote.

Shortly after the autumn of Kabul, in fall 2021, we protested within the streets towards the strict restrictions the Taliban regime positioned on girls. Though we have been warned and threatened many instances, we didn’t cease protesting towards them.

My mates and I continued to battle for our rights and freedoms till we have been kidnapped by the Taliban intelligence division and thrown into jail.

After I entered the cramped and darkish Taliban jail, I had misplaced the hope of life and freedom. I didn’t suppose that I might be launched. I didn’t consider I might see my household once more.

There have been no feminine jailers within the Taliban jail. The guards have been armed males with scruffy and tough faces. The jailers handled the ladies prisoners very harshly. Of their view, we have been thought of immoral girls. “Prostitutes.” Subsequently, they handled us violently and tried to humiliate us by cursing and behaving unusually, as in the event that they have been confronted with one thing very impure and impolite.

The protesting girls who have been imprisoned earlier than me had shared horrible tales in regards to the violent remedy of the Taliban jailers. I used to be horrified to listen to about all of the inhuman and immoral habits. I had no alternative however to organize myself to face any sort of torture from the Taliban; we had no petitioner to attempt to free us. The Taliban dared, in entrance of the media cameras, to precise their ignorance in regards to the arrests of protesting girls and act as if nothing had occurred.

After I entered the cramped and darkish Taliban jail, I had misplaced the hope of life and freedom. I didn’t suppose that I might be launched. I didn’t consider I might see my household once more. … Throughout these 13 days filled with persecution and ache, I felt as if I had lived 13 years of my life.

Mursal Ayar

The Taliban needed to make me speak by means of psychological and bodily torture. On my second day in jail, troopers took me for interrogation. Though the ladies participated within the protests spontaneously and didn’t have any gathering base or particular handle, the Taliban insisted that I give them the handle of such a base, in order that they might arrest the remaining protesting girls.

Throughout the interrogation, there was quite a lot of torture and beatings; they barely gave me an opportunity to speak, and I needed to communicate shortly. If my solutions didn’t please them, they might hit me with a pipe with an iron rod caught in it. But, I didn’t say something that threatened or uncovered different girls. I knew that if the Taliban discovered them, there can be no hope for them.

I used to be in Taliban jail for 13 days. Throughout these 13 days filled with persecution and ache, I felt as if I had lived 13 years of my life.

Earlier than my launch, the Taliban warned me to not undertake any actions towards their group. They threatened to kill my members of the family and stated that when I used to be launched from jail, I shouldn’t speak to any media or proceed protesting within the streets. Lengthy after I used to be launched, I continued to obtain threats from many various contact numbers. They’d not let me relaxation. They’d not let me heal.

After I sleep, I’m tortured and threatened in my desires by the individuals of this group. After these 13 days, I’m like a bit of lady who’s afraid of the night time. I sleep subsequent to my mom.

The Taliban haven’t solely taken my nation from me; they’ve taken every part from me. My peace, my desires, my hope and braveness. I left the Taliban jail, however I couldn’t regain what I’ve misplaced without end. Freedom. Afghanistan has develop into an open jail for the reason that Taliban returned to energy. All individuals, particularly girls, have misplaced their freedom. Even those that managed to flee have misplaced their desires and ambitions.

Regardless of new tragedies, we are able to’t overlook in regards to the struggles of Afghan girls and women. … We want extra unity to return collectively and advocate for his or her rights and freedoms. Afghanistan’s drawback wants nationwide resistance.

Roshan Mashal, visiting scholar on the College of Texas at Austin and the previous deputy director of the Afghan Ladies’s Community

Academics begging on the street for assist to feed their households as secondary colleges stay closed by the Taliban in Afghanistan. (Naveed Ahmed)

To NATO members and people who declare to battle towards fundamentalism: Within the final 20 years, the ladies of Afghanistan have been capable of be taught and take part in enhancing what you known as the worldwide neighborhood. If we talked about human rights, if we protested towards human rights violations, if we talked about freedom of expression and if we believed in frequent world values, it was partially due to the guarantees of the worldwide neighborhood.

We actually believed on this imaginative and prescient and we thought that you simply have been truthful and would rise up on your robust beliefs. The presence of worldwide forces, particularly Individuals, was accompanied by new phrases and slogans. I used to be a toddler at first of your presence. It took 20 years for me to be taught these phrases:

Combating terrorism.

Combating fundamentalism.

Ladies’s human rights. 

Over time, these ideas turned a supply of hope and encouragement for everybody, however particularly for ladies of Afghanistan. Even after you left, we stood alone towards the Taliban to uplift our frequent values earlier than the eyes of the worldwide neighborhood. Now we have many frequent beliefs with the individuals of the world. We take into account ourselves part of the worldwide neighborhood.

However you left us alone, even with all we’ve got in frequent. You left us with a terrorist group that may be a hazard to everybody.

Below the Taliban, the individuals of Afghanistan, particularly girls, are experiencing the world’s worst dwelling circumstances. On daily basis we see violations of human rights. However Western governments, which all the time boast of defending human rights and girls’s rights, are silent. They watch the catastrophe unfold from far-off.

The one factor the U.S., worldwide communities, and world leaders can do is non-recognition of the Taliban authorities, non-availability (not making assets accessible) of Afghan individuals’s funds, capital and wealth to the Taliban, and additional restrictions on worldwide travels of Taliban leaders.

Shahla Farid, scholar and researcher at Rutgers College’s Middle for Ladies’s World Management

My pal, Tamana Rezaei, is an Afghan lady who misplaced her company as a human being and suffered by the hands of the Taliban. She holds the leaders of Western international locations liable for the scenario they’ve triggered. Afghan girls have been in favor of human rights, girls’s rights, democracy and freedom of speech, Tamana stated. It was our best want that Afghanistan can be free from conflict and spiritual, ethnic and gender discrimination. We’d all act for the betterment of the world, collectively.

However with the Taliban’s return to energy, it turned clear that allies of the Afghan individuals didn’t have such a robust perception in these ideas. Maybe they aren’t as robust as we’re.

We, the ladies of Afghanistan, have an unclear future. Our will has been taken from us and because of this, the long run has been taken from us. We aren’t free and freedom is the supply of humanity and equality.

We would like you to know that the messages and protests of Afghan girls usually are not solely towards the Taliban; we’re talking to each human being who performed a job in our captivity and this nice taking of our freedoms.

U.S. democracy is at a harmful inflection level—from the demise of abortion rights, to a scarcity of pay fairness and parental go away, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and assaults on trans well being. Left unchecked, these crises will result in wider gaps in political participation and illustration. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Modification, and centering the tales of these most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we’re redoubling our dedication for the subsequent 50 years. In flip, we want your assist, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll obtain the print journal together with our e-newsletters, motion alerts, and invites to Ms. Studios occasions and podcasts. We’re grateful on your loyalty and ferocity.

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