Khadija Amin: "There is no future for women in Afghanistan"

Afghan women in exile continue to denounce the violence faced by their compatriots in the country at the hands of the Taliban

PHOTO/FILE  -   Amin was one of the many women who left the country, fleeing the Taliban's misogynistic laws

Khadija Amin is 29 years old, a journalist living in Madrid. Like thousands of others, her life was turned upside down on 15 August 2021. The Taliban takeover of Kabul set Afghanistan back 20 years.

Amin was one of the many women who left the country, fleeing the Taliban's misogynistic laws. However, Amin also had to leave behind her job as a public television presenter and her three children, whom she cannot talk to because of her ex-husband.

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How did you experience the Taliban takeover of Kabul?

When the Taliban came I was outside my office doing an interview. My boss called me and told me that I couldn't come back at that moment because the Taliban had arrived. When I went back to the TV there was no one there, everyone had gone home. For three days I was also at home without working. Those were very hard days for me and for everyone. After three days, my colleagues went back to work. I said I also wanted to go back, but they said I couldn't. My boss said women couldn't go back to work. My boss said that women were not allowed in the office. Even so, other female colleagues and I tried to enter, but we were prevented from doing so.

The Taliban have always been opposed to women working. Twenty years ago the situation was like it is now, women were not allowed to study or work. We have gone backwards, we have gone back to those times. The Taliban are always against women. 

We can say that there is no difference between the current Taliban regime and that of 1996.

No. The only difference is that Afghan women are demonstrating, they are not silent like before. Women are taking to the streets despite the risks. A fortnight ago three women disappeared, we don't know where they are. The Taliban arrested them during a protest.

What is the situation of women and girls today?

The Taliban respond with violence to demonstrations organised by women. Violence against women and girls is very high. Families sell their daughters to earn money. Forced marriages are very common in Afghanistan. Girls as young as 10 or 12 are sold to older men. There is no one who listens to women, there used to be a Ministry, there used to be NGOs, but there is no one anymore.

As I said, women can't work, so there is less income in the household. If a woman has a job, she has money and can contribute something to the family economy, which will improve. If there is no income, violence increases. 

What should the international community do about Afghanistan and how should it deal with the Taliban?

NATO and the United States are partly to blame because they left Afghanistan in the hands of the Taliban, a terrorist group. The United States used to have an interest in Afghanistan, but not any more. The international community should speak out and put pressure on them to let women study and work. We don't want them to recognise the Taliban government either, they are not a government, they are a terrorist group.

What is the role of the media with regard to Afghanistan?

If there is no news about Afghanistan, people will forget about Afghanistan. This worries me a lot, that the world will forget about Afghanistan. The journalists who are there now can't publish or report what is happening because the Taliban control all the media. But those of us who are outside can write, publish their videos so that the world knows what their situation is. I sometimes talk to the women and girls who are there and they tell me what is going on.

Why did you decide to study journalism and did your family support you?

After the divorce I thought about what I could do to help women. Before I didn't know anything about my rights, I suffered a lot of violence at home. When I lived with my ex-husband, I didn't work or study. He said that a woman was only good for giving birth, taking care of the children and the house, nothing else. That's why I wanted to help others to know their rights. At first, my family was also against me studying, but now they are happy with my work. Now I participate in talks and programmes for women.

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Do you plan to bring your children to Spain?

At first my ex-husband asked me to help him to leave Afghanistan with my children. When everything was ready, he didn't want to. He told me that I had to forget about the children and that I couldn't talk to them. It was very hard. I can't forget this day. Now I can't bring my children because I don't have any documents to certify that they are my children. In Afghanistan, in such documents, there is no mother's name, only the father's name. 

In addition to women, ethnic minorities such as the Hazaras suffer strong oppression by the Taliban. What is their situation?

I took part in a demonstration for the Hazaras in Madrid. I am a Tajik but I support them, the important thing is that we are all Afghans. The Taliban attack them in schools and hospitals. For example, in an attack on a children's hospital a newborn baby was injured and his mother (ethnic Hazara) died.

We are currently experiencing a series of historic protests in Iran that are shaking the foundations of the Ayatollahs' regime. Do you think something similar could happen in Afghanistan?

No. Men in Afghanistan are afraid of the Taliban and do not support women, unlike in Iran, where women and men protest together. If the situation continues like this, I know that there is no future for women in Afghanistan. The Taliban do not accept anything. Men could be very useful if they supported the protests, but they don't want to. A lot of men think like the Taliban and support the measures against women.