“It’s been a nightmare, I can’t describe it any other way,” an Afghan woman said, describing the life-altering consequences of the Taliban’s rise to power in Afghanistan.

Afghan women, who had received the right to work and access to education during the time the U.S. military was in Afghanistan, have concerns, some of which have already played out, that the withdrawal of those troops and the Taliban's rise to power caused a rollback of those rights for women.


Marwa Dashti, the woman who described her life since the Taliban’s takeover as a “nightmare,” told Merissa Khurma, the Middle East program director for the Wilson Center’s Asia Program, and Vital Voices during a virtual event, “It’s so surreal. I still can’t believe it’s real. I mean how can our home, the home we worked to build for 20 years, just get destroyed in a matter of two weeks?”

“We lost our everything,” added Dashti, who wants to pursue a career in journalism like her late father. “We lost our livelihoods. We lost our lives. We lost everything. Our hope.”

“It’s a shame to all of humanity where there’s a part of the world where people are thinking about going to Mars or facing artificial intelligence and then there’s a whole country in which girls aren’t even allowed to go to school," she added. "I mean, how are we going to justify that?

Dashti was joined by Hilai Barakzai, who said, “I lost my freedom. It was so difficult for me to accept that because I was a person always fight[ing] for my life, for my freedom. ... We don’t [do] anything else or something completely different. We are also Muslim. … We want to be free, we want to live, and we want to work. We want to support our mates."

The Taliban have been allowing some teenage girls to return to high school in a handful of provinces throughout the country, though it remains unknown as to their level of commitment to allowing women and girls to enjoy equal rights or if they are attempting to placate the international community, according to NPR.

Soraya Lennie, a TRT World correspondent who appeared on Weekend Edition Sunday, described the situation as “not necessarily a shift in policy.” Rather, it’s a part of a “twofold strategy.”


The first issue is girls’ education, which Lennie called a “red herring,” and the second is international aid because the Taliban believe allowing girls to receive an education is “a tactic to show compromise,” which in turn could lead to “less hesitancy in terms of getting that international aid.”

The Taliban have their hands full with their nemesis, ISIS-K, the Afghanistan-based affiliate of the Islamic State, which is now present in "nearly all provinces" of Afghanistan "and [is] increasingly active," Special Representative Deborah Lyons told the United Nations Security Council last week.