Written By: Zahra Rashidi
I didn’t have a good mental state when my male classmates graduated, while I couldn’t leave the house.
Samira is the mother of a two-year-old son. She studied journalism and public relations while facing many challenges and limitations imposed by the Taliban.
Samira, on the verge of defending her thesis and completing her bachelor’s degree, could not pursue the plans she had outlined for her life and future.
This setback was a significant blow in her life, especially as she witnessed her male classmates graduate simply because they were male. At the same time, she and thousands of other girls could only follow their success online while confined to the corners of their homes.
She got married at 17, a necessity to complete the high school curriculum and gain university admission. Despite this event, she did not give up on her education and pursued her passion for journalism.
Since Samira had married at such a young age, she still felt a youthful spirit within her, and her sole concern was to graduate from university and toss her graduation cap in the air with her fellow students after completing her studies.
In a society like Afghanistan, girls are generally expected to become homemakers after marriage. This mindset also transformed Samira’s life after marriage, but she was more determined not to become a victim of these tribal stereotypes. She persuaded her family not to oppose her education.
After marriage and university enrollment, Samira shone brighter every day in her chosen field of study. Her grades were satisfactory, but in the second semester of university, she gradually realized the heavy burden on her shoulders after starting the “pregnancy” phase. From her husband’s family to the responsibilities of university, thoughts of motherhood, and the challenging conditions of her pregnancy months, it had truly overwhelmed her.
Samira says, “Even though it was very cold during the winter, and my family suggested I take a few days off to rest and improve my condition, I went to university without fatigue and continued my studies without interruption.”
She believes in learning as much knowledge as possible and strengthening her understanding. Samira has accepted knowledge and awareness as a candle in her life. Still, she feels that the candle made from knowledge and awareness cannot illuminate, especially in these dark times, where darkness is a prominent feature.
Samira had spent most of her time on university courses, which caused her newborn son to bond more with her husband’s mother, as she was often absent. Nevertheless, she decided to take her son to university with her, which gradually led to a decline in her academic focus.
Samira says, “I spent most of my time studying at the university to achieve higher grades or to learn properly. My only goal was to eventually become someone my husband’s son and my entire family would be proud of. But they didn’t allow me to graduate, limiting all job opportunities. I am suffering because they confined my dreams and the dreams of all other women to the house’s four walls.”
University expenses, along with a heavy load of courses and childcare, were the hardships Samira endured to reach her monograph defence. However, according to her, the past two years have turned the lives of Afghan women, including herself, into a nightmare of lost efforts and days.
Samira says, “I didn’t have a good mental state when my male classmates graduated while I couldn’t leave the house. I felt very alone, worthless, and oppressed, and although I didn’t allow myself to entertain the thought, I kept telling myself that someday the world would find a solution to this winter imprisonment. But after a long time, my sense of hopelessness grew stronger.”
However, on the other hand, even though more than a year has passed since universities were closed, Samira’s gates of hope remain open. She says, “Although I have forgotten the university courses I had previously studied due to being away from the academic environment, I am trying to continue my studies using modern technology so that I can be prepared if the opportunity to continue my education arises.”
Women in most societies, including Afghanistan, have suffered from various forms of discrimination, and their human rights have been subjugated to male dominance and patriarchal culture.
In the past two years, thousands of other girls have been placed in an uncertain and unclear future after being denied education; the result of years of relentless efforts by female students is now uncertainty and ambiguity. Afghan women are now seen as society’s most vulnerable and defenceless group. Daily, they are deprived of their fundamental human rights to the point where education, a fundamental human right, has become an unattainable dream for them.