In the words of Adela*: ‘I went to the streets every day to fight even harder than the day before.’

Adela* is a teacher and protester in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Photo: UN Women/Habib Sayed Bidell

Before August 2021, I was a teacher. After August 2021, I tasted the bitter taste of being a woman in a traditional patriarchal society, and I participated with other women in a self-organised May protest against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

When the Taliban took control last August and returned to power for the second time. I was afraid we would go back to the past. I was afraid of the closing of girls’ schools by the Taliban, of their preventing women from working, and of their stoning women in public. Some of my worst fears have come true since then.

Several weeks after the fall of Kabul, I took to the streets and decided to face the Taliban. I took to the streets to fight for my human rights and the rights of my mother, my sister, my daughter, and the thousands of students who looked to me for inspiration.

Every day, I hugged my two children. I was afraid that the Taliban would take them from me. But consciously, responsibly, and honestly, I went to the streets every day to fight even harder than the day before.

Hundreds of women joined us on the streets of Kabul, Parwan, Kapisa, Panjshir, Takhar, Badakhshan, Helmand, Kandahar, Mazar, and other places. Professors, doctors, former government employees, female human rights activists, and civil society leaders all came together as women injured by the return of the Taliban to power, to demand our human rights and put an end to the Taliban’s restrictions on our right to work, access education, and exercise our individual freedoms of movement and expression.

Over the course of this struggle, we were threatened, harassed, beaten, and even imprisoned by the Taliban. I will never forget the severed head of Furozan, the broken bone of Nargis’ head, the burned face of Medina, the damaged eye of Marjan, and the brutal arrest of [so many women]. I will not forget the thousands of women in Taliban prisons whose identities are still unknown.

The Taliban surrounded us many times and tried to stop us with electric shocks and pepper spray, but we picked up their rifles with our bare hands and continued marching.

Once during a protest, a Talib kicked me so hard that I fell to the ground. My vision went black, and I thought I would lose my strength, but I got up and shouted even louder: “Bread, work, freedom!”

I will never remain silent in the face of oppression. It has become my human responsibility and duty … and I hope that I will never bow down to cruelty and barbarism and that my voice will not be the voice of politics but the voice of humanity.

From this captivity, I aspire to the victory of freedom, and I will continue to fight for a better tomorrow for my country.

* Names, locations, and course of events have been changed in this article to ensure the safety of the woman featured.

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UN Women is on the ground in Afghanistan, supporting Afghan women and girls every day. Our in-country strategy centres on investing in women—from scaling up support to women’s organisations and women humanitarian workers delivering life-saving services, to investing in women-led businesses.

Originally published on UN Women