Yesterday, I imagine you, too, were gripped by the news, as the Taliban seized control of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. People fled their homes to hide, or tried desperately to escape, even clinging to the wings of departing airplanes. I hesitated to write about this huge, complicated situation, but readers have been asking for a space to talk. So, I thought I’d bring together some news pieces, especially those centering Afghan women.
Over the past few days, the New York Times’ Daily podcast communicated with R., a 33-year-old Afghan woman living in Kabul.
“My country is falling on her knees, and no one is taking any action,” she sobbed into the recorder. “The whole world is just watching.”
Growing increasingly distressed, she described the fall of Kabul: “To the world, it’s just a city that collapses, but to me, it’s not just a city… There are thousands of souls that collapse. There are millions of dreams that collapse. Our history, our culture, our art, our beauty, our lives collapse.”
Of course, as R. emphasizes, there is much to lose. Over the past 20 years — ever since the defeat of the Taliban in late 2001 — Afghan women have achieved an extraordinary amount. They’ve graduated from universities and graduate schools; successfully run for Parliament; owned bakeries, salons and stores; worked as doctors, ambassadors, journalists, bankers, ministers; the list goes on.
Now, once again under Taliban rule, what will life look like for these women and girls? In the 1990s and early 2000s, when the Taliban was previously in power, women were required to wear burqas in public. Women were not allowed to go outside without a male relative. Women were not allowed to work outside the home. Women were not allowed to attend school after the age of 8. Women were banned from voting. Some women and girls were forced into marriages. These rules essentially made women prisoners in their own homes.
“Perhaps the silence of life under the Taliban sits with me more than anything,” writes photojournalist Lynsey Addario, who has covered Afghanistan for two decades. “There were very few cars, no music, no television, no telephones, and no idle conversation on the sidewalks. The dusty streets were crowded with widows who had lost their husbands in the protracted war; banned from working, their only means of survival was to beg. People were scared, indoors and out. Those who were brave enough to venture out spoke in hushed voices, for fear of provoking a Taliban beating for anything as simple as not having a long-enough beard (for a man) or a long-enough burka (for a woman), or sometimes for nothing at all.”
Back on the Daily podcast, R. mourned Afghan women’s progress over the past 20 years. “Just forget about the sacrifices we made, the things that we worked so hard for,” she wept. “Now it’s just a matter of saving your life.”
But some cling to hope. “The Taliban is taking territory,” Afghan activist Shukriya Barakzai told Addario, “but not the hearts and minds of people.”
HOW TO HELP
(This section is being continually updated.)
If you can, please join us in donating to Women for Afghan Women, a grassroots civil society organization dedicated to protecting and promoting the rights of Afghan women and girls.
Share airline miles
If you have airline miles, you can donate them to refugees, asylees, asylum-seekers, and their immediate family members, who have legal approval to travel but cannot afford airfare, says a reader named Imogen. Go to Miles4Migrants to donate.
Send items to resettled Afghan refugees
Please consider supporting the resettled Afghans, who were able to get visas for the U.S., says a reader named Caroline. These are people who have risked their lives to translate for and protect Americans in Afghanistan. Lutheran Social Services helps set up families who have been forced from their homes and resettled in America, and they have an Amazon wishlist where you can buy items for the families who’ve had to leave everything behind.
Contact your reps
A few readers asked about how to contact their states’ representatives. First, you can easily find your reps here. Then write to them. Here’s a sample message:
Dear Representative LAST-NAME,
As a voter and YOUR-STATE resident, I am writing to implore you to take action on the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Afghanistan. The abrupt withdrawal of U.S. armed forces has imperiled the lives and safety of countless people on the ground there, including Afghan citizens who have directly assisted U.S. efforts. I am especially concerned for women and girls who will be subject to oppressive and dangerous rule. We are morally obligated to take action to provide safety for the most vulnerable. Refugee visas MUST be granted and action must be taken on the ground to stabilize the situation. We only need to look to history to see what happens when we turn away.
You can also call to leave a message on an answering machine. As a reader named Colleen urged, “Contact your representatives and demand that the U.S. expand its visa programs to allow NGO workers and supporters to apply for visas while they are trapped in Afghanistan. Cite Canada as an example of a country that is providing adequate support to Afghan refugees.”
Follow Afghan women and journalists
A reader named Sylvia recommends following Anisa Akbary, Deputy Chief of Staff at Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Fawzia Koofi, the first woman deputy speaker of Parliament; and Mariam Solaimankhil, Member of Afghanistan’s Parliament representing the Kuchis. A reader named Hanna recommends following the reporter Stefanie Glinski.
Please share other possible ways to help and ways to learn, if you are knowledgable in this area. Thank you so much. xo
(Photo of a yoga class in Kabul on Saturday by Kiana Hayeri/The New York Times.)