Zarifa

A police officer describes how her life has changed since the takeover.

Zarifa

“All my hopes and dreams were destroyed after the Taliban takeover...”

Zarifa (a pseudonym) had a bright career ahead of her. A law graduate who had studied overseas, she had joined the Afghan police force, rising to become an officer. She studied on the side of her job and was in her final semester of a master’s degree at a prestigious university. Now, she stays at home, and sees nothing but a dark future for herself and her female friends.


After the collapse of the government, she received a call from the Taliban, who asked her to return to her police job, promising her salary would be paid from Qatar. But on returning to work, she found a different situation. “When I got back to my office after the takeover, there was chaos. Some of the equipment had been broken. We were all frightened to see a Talib as our new Manager with long pajamas and a turban. I could not face it and went to the washroom and cried,” Zarifa commented.


Her family feared for her safety, worrying she might be hurt, killed or kidnapped by the Taliban, and asked her to stay home. Zarifa is now one among dozens of female police officers who have left the job and are living with no income, some previously the sole breadwinners for their families. “All my hopes and dreams were destroyed after the Taliban takeover and since those moments, I don’t feel safe, even in my own home. I think they will come and will kill me," said Zarifa.


“When we joined the police during the previous government, it was still taboo for our families and community for women to join the army. But we fought hard for it and gained recognition and attitudes were slowly beginning to shift. We’ve lost everything in a matter of days and weeks,” she added.


Zarifa now stays at home, depressed and dealing with anxiety. She feels women like her have lost 20 years of progress and hard work. She hears stories of friends who have been arrested by the Taliban in the Barchi area in Kabul, but has no idea what has happened to them, making her all the more nervous for her future.


Some of her friends decided to leave Afghanistan and fled to neighbouring countries such as Iran and Pakistan. Somaya, Zarifa’s friend, was a member of the national army forces and a fellow police officer. Somaya, her mother and two younger sisters each paid 20,000 Afghani to a smuggler for a dangerous four day journey through the Chaman border, and now live illegally in Pakistan. “Even here I don’t feel safe. I can’t go to immigration to register and can’t go to the embassies as I fear we will be arrested. I have seen them deport over 270 families back to Afghanistan,” said Somaya in a message to Zarifa.


A friend and former colleague, Aliya Rayesi, who was Head of Herat Prison, had also been asked to return to her job but has disappeared, with no news on her whereabouts or safety.


With bad news from friends, family and former colleagues, Zarifa sees little hope, concluding “I don’t see any physical or mental safety for my friends in Afghanistan, or those who have fled to Pakistan. We have no future.”

Interview with Afghan Witness

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