Tuesday, January 31, 2023

A Year of Darkness: A message from Afghan girls to heads of Muslim countries and other world leaders

Written by: 50 girls secondary school students from Kabul, Nangarhar and Parwan Provinces of Afghanistan Compiled by: Rahim Jami & Deema Hiram

It has been one year since Afghan girls have been deprived of their right to an education. For these girls, this year has brought great mental and emotional challenges and has been nothing short of a nightmare. Some mourn their dreams of a bright future, and grieve the burnt pages of notebooks excitedly colored for a brighter tomorrow. Others are carrying the heavy burdens of unwanted and early marriages. Each day brings numerous challenges for Afghan girls such as domestic violence, denial of fundamental rights and uncertainty about the future leading to severe depression and even suicide. 

It’s a shame that in the 21st century, we must beg for our fundamental rights – such as education – and put our demand forward to world leaders who themselves believe in human rights defenders and advocates.Hadaf  – Kabul – 19 years old – grade 12

Neither the Taliban nor world leaders should use girls’ education, which leads us from darkness to light, for political purposes and to bargain for power. For Afghan girls, it is heartbreaking to see how the world seems to have forgotten about their right to an education. It shows that fundamental human rights, values, and morals can be compromised for political interests.

Since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, Afghan girls have witnessed and experienced all forms of violence and discrimination. Rising poverty and unemployment in Afghanistan has caused a rise in domestic violence. People are forced to sell household appliances to feed their families and in some cases, even sell their children. Poverty and increase in prices of basic goods such as bread means girls are at a much higher risk of early marriage, as marrying off girls means fewer mouths to feed. 

Afghan girls and women fear the Taliban will rule again the way they did in 1996. But during the past year, the world seems to have forgotten about the suffering of 20 million Afghan women and girls. Even in the past, Afghan women and girls living in a patriarchal society had few fundamental rights, but with the arrival of the Taliban, the situation has worsened and they are now deprived of each and every right.

“This past year, we have been denied human rights, such as the right to attain an education, the privilege to work, the liberty to live with dignity, freedom, mobility and speech, and the right to determine and decide for ourselves.” Azadi – Kabul – 18 years old – grade 11

Afghan girls have the following message for world leaders:

We wish to wear our black dress and white veils again and return to school as boys do. Our fingers dearly miss our pens and notebooks. We want to repeat after our teachers out loud, inside classrooms. Let us relive the moments of delight and tension during exams with our hearts and souls. We want education for our families and ourselves and to achieve our dreams. We will never let anyone take our dreams and future away.

We, the girls, ask the people of Afghanistan, the United Nations, and world leaders, including heads of Islamic countries and girls’ education activists, to speak against this injustice and inequity and echo our voices for universal human and religious rights and freedoms. We ask everyone to stand beside us until the right to access quality, equal, and inclusive education is fulfilled and assured, according to globally acknowledged standards. The world must meet its obligations and not allow Afghanistan to become a haven for terrorists again.

We will never forgive and forget if the world fails us today. We will rise and stand firm again, but the world will stand ashamed before us. We, the future, will make history and narrate how we lived through a chronicle of darkness. Hence, stand by us, and raise your voices together, so schools open for us again.

The world should not put red carpets before the Taliban; the United Nations shouldn’t recognize them; impose applicable sanctions and preserve tactful pressure unless and until they allow all girls to attend schools, guarantee equal rights, freedom and liberty of work and participation in social affairs.

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