The Taliban's Kabul through the eyes of a teenage girl

14-year-old Huda's life in Afghanistan was turned upside down a year ago and hasn't been the same since

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Huda is far from the only teenager to complain that too many people are telling her what to do, or "ruining her life". But in her case, it's not hyperbole.

Aged 14, Huda is a child of Afghanistan's republic, born seven years after the US invaded her country, overthrew the Taliban government and set up a parliamentary democracy that it promised would be the dawn of a new era for Afghans. Like most other young girls in Kabul, she went to school, developed a diverse group of friends and maintained a vibrant social life.

A year ago, the Taliban took back control over Afghanistan, and Huda's life as she once knew it was over.

From the day they took power, on August 15 last year, the Taliban sent women home from work and from school, and began to institute austere requirements for dress and social interactions. That day, Huda went outside and for the first time came face-to-face with men she had only ever heard about in scary stories. She immediately returned home and didn't leave her house for more than a month.

Huda's parents have struggled with helping their three daughters adapt to the new reality.

"I worry all the time about Huda getting depression and we always try to find ways to make sure it doesn't happen," her mother Najmussama says. "I try to comfort her by telling her the Taliban are not so bad."

But to Huda, who, as a teenage girl has been prohibited by the Taliban from going to school for an entire year, it is difficult to see a bright side.

In an effort to keep her active, her parents have enrolled her in private religious classes where she also learns Arabic, and in the evenings she studies English over Zoom with a tutor in the US.

Even this continued intellectual stimulation, however, can only do so much to fill the void. Huda hasn't seen most of her friends since last year. Many have left the country with their families. Those who remain in Kabul are normally prohibited by their parents from leaving the house, out of fear of what might happen under the Taliban government.

Huda's family have often discussed sending the children to live abroad to complete their studies, but they worry about the costs and consequences. For Najmussama, one of Kabul's most skilled gynaecologists, leaving Afghanistan means abandoning her patients at a time when they have never been more in need.

But Huda dreams of the day she will be able to leave, and to live a normal teenage girl's life, even if it is far from home. In Kabul, her hopes are fading by the day.

Updated: August 15, 2022, 6:23 PM
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