A telecoms employee tries to make the best of life in the new Kabul.
If I leave, where should I go? What will I do?
Nilab ( a pseudonym) works for a telecommunications company in Kabul and pursues an online master’s degree program in Digital Business at a UK based university. Before the Taliban takeover, she was hopeful for the future of Afghanistan and believed that the Afghan government (ex-government run by President Ghani) could protect human rights despite the struggles and the ongoing conflict. She was hopeful that the peace deal with the Taliban would end the bloodshed in Afghanistan.
In her interview with Afghan Witness, Nilab expressed her dedication and determination to stay in Afghanistan and that she had ignored opportunities of migration to Canada. On August 14th (a day before the Taliban entered Kabul) Nilab received a text message from her employer and was instructed to work from home the next day (August 15th). Nilab said:
“I was at home and at around 4 PM I read on Facebook that President Ghani had fled the country. It was at that moment that I lost all of my hope. I thought everything was lost at one instance, and now I am stuck here.”
The turn of events was terrifying for Nilab as she witnessed the Taliban’s vehicles and fighters wandering around her neighbourhood in Kabul. Nilab locked herself up inside her house for a month out of fear and shock. Last time she had seen the Taliban was in the 90s when she was only five. She never imagined the Taliban would come back.
As thousands of people left Afghanistan during the mass evacuations from the Kabul Airport in August, Nilab could not decide to leave the country. She constantly thought about the life she had built – working tirelessly to make a career for herself over the past 20 years. She said:
“There is a life ahead of you; you cannot take a random decision and leave. If I leave, where should I go? What will I do? Neither I want to leave, nor I want to stay.”
In these uncertain times, Nilab considers herself lucky to have a job. She goes to work every day and comes back straight home. However, she finds it terrifying when the Taliban fighters stop the vehicle she goes to work with and ask her where she is heading to.
Although Nilab’s workplace is an open environment and she can choose to wear or not to wear a headscarf, it is not the same when the Taliban occasionally visit to conduct security checks. Nilab describes her fear when the Taliban come to her workplace – she starts trembling and thinks something terrible might happen to her. Nilab’s constant fear from the Taliban militants visiting and investing makes her life difficult. She said:
“Taliban fighters complain about not being paid and not having enough food and clothes, but they have guns and they use their guns to threaten people and ask for food and money.”
Despite that, Nilab thinks the Taliban will not survive because they are not fit to govern.
For a country with a young population - 63% of the Afghan population are under 25 years of age - the recent political changes have been demotivating and depressing. Nilab misses the sense of normality and the freedom she previously enjoyed in terms of movement, work and making her own choices. Despite everything she is going through, she remains resilient and hopeful for the near future. She does not have any plans to leave and remains committed to staying in Afghanistan.
Interview by Afghan Witness