Afghanistan is teeming with the untold stories of half of its population. Sahar Speaks gives a rare and revealing look into Afghan women’s lives, as reported by Afghan women on the ground.
A year ago, the American University of Afghanistan was brutally attacked by the Taliban, leaving 13 dead and 30 injured. Two foreign professors, one from the United States and the other from Australia, were kidnapped and remain in Taliban captivity. The university, which gives scholarships to hundreds of women from all walks of life, was closed for seven months, with students dispersed back to provinces across the country.
Most of the students who were there during the attack are emotionally scarred. For women, especially those who were injured, their lives back home became suffocating and lonely.
Journalist Pariwash Gouhari followed the journey of two women who suffered serious injuries when they jumped out of their second-floor classroom during the attack. Sultana Taib is in her second year of studying law; Soorya Azizi is a business administration major.
As Sultana leapt from the second floor when Taliban gunmen stormed her university, she fractured a bone in her back. She later found out that part of a bullet had also struck her back. The 23-year-old spends her days at home, reading books, drinking tea and watching movies to pass the time.
She says she misses her life in the dormitory, where she would regularly hang out with friends. She now stays in a rented flat in Kabul with her sister and communicates with her friends via her cellphone. She must deal with constant electricity outages and says she misses the steady generators the university provided for them.
Even though she is injured and at home, she still paints her nails, a small act of defiance against a society she says puts restrictions on women. She longs for the days when she can return to a normal life, and hang out with her university girlfriends in the cafes of Kabul, one of the few places where young women can meet and chat freely.
Nineteen-year-old Soorya broke her spine in a 30-foot-high fall. Initially, the doctors thought she would never walk again, but she has made steady progress, although she suffers enormous pain. In Afghan homes, friends and family usually sit on large, flat pillows called tushaks, and Soorya needs help to get up from the floor.
Like Sultana, she misses her friends and relishes their visits, even if they come by just for a cup of tea. She also loves to put on lipstick, as she would before going to classes, even though she spends her days at home with her family. She also spends time doing exercises. She tried to take an online class, but with Afghanistan’s weak internet, it became nearly impossible.
The university reopened at the end of March, to jubilation from the students.