By Zahra, Afghan journalist and women’s rights activist
It has been 18 months since Kabul fell to the Taliban, and the situation in Afghanistan has gone from bad to worse.
Girls are banned from attending secondary school or university by the Taliban, who make their own rules. Women are banned from work. Malnutrition and infant mortality rates are very high, and the healthcare system is crumbling.
Life is impossible for many Afghan women, so much so that Sweden and Denmark have accepted that women from Afghanistan are a persecuted group who should get refugee status.
Yet one year on, Afghans resettlement schemes to the UK have stalled, and the world has stopped demanding peace for Afghanistan.
I recently met Karima*, who shared with me her story and the difficulties she has faced:
“My education has been a struggle since I was a child. I am now 32 years old. I was unable to go to school under the Taliban’s first regime. At the time, I was seven years old. Five years later, in 2001, after the Taliban’s first retreat, I was able to return to school at the age of twelve. When I got married, I was in year 9, but I never gave up on my education.
“When the Taliban declared that women could no longer attend university, I was in my final year. They burst in the building, started ripping our books and beating us. Why haven’t I finished my education yet? I’ve always been the top of my class, both at school and university. Now I feel ashamed – why should we always be in trouble? When I was younger we lived in Ghazni province, even at the time, the Taliban prevented us from going to school, and sometimes, they attacked our schools burning them down. Now I am worried for my daughter’s future. She is in school now, but her education will stop at some point because the Taliban won’t let her in secondary school. We don’t deserve all this and why should we experience it?
“Afghanistan is like a hill for women. We struggle with a lot of things: education, civil rights, freedom. Don’t hand us to the Taliban. They do whatever they want with us and our rights. Things we don’t want the world to forget about! We are also human. We want to be treated like humans too. We don’t have any other option here but to venture on dangerous journeys to reach safety. I would accept any risks to save my children’s lives and protect them and their rights.”
Many Afghans in the UK are separated from family and are desperate to bring their loved ones to safety. The Refugee Council has even supported Afghan children in the UK who were separated from their parents when they were evacuated by the UK government. The options for Afghan people trying to bring family members to join them in the UK depends on several factors including: the situation of the individual in the UK, their immigration status, the relationship to the family member(s) abroad and their circumstances. But in practice, Afghans in the UK are facing huge barriers to reuniting with their families, ranging from financial requirements, through to backlogs at the Home Office in processing family reunion applications. This is why it’s really important that we keep campaigning for the rights of refugees in the UK, including the right to family reunion.
*Karima’s name has been changed to protect her anonymity.