As the Taliban swept Kabul, a friend escaped. The other was trapped. They shared their anguish on WhatsApp
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His days, once punctuated by exam preparation, fitness classes at the gym, meeting friends over coffee in cafes and buying new clothes, are now painfully empty.
She was planning to start a degree in economics at Kabul University this fall. Instead, she stayed home, too terrified to venture beyond the neighborhood grocery store. Confined between four walls, she tries to occupy herself. She frequently rearranges her furniture, studies English textbooks, posts poetry on Instagram, and practices new makeup tricks she finds on YouTube.
“We always try to stay alive and keep busy so that we don’t feel the pain and the pain,” Nilofar told CNN on a recent phone call. “We don’t even know what’s going on outside. We just watch the sun rise and set through the window.”
“I had a lot of dreams, I wanted to continue my studies, to do big things, to work alongside my friends, but all my friends have left the country. I don’t know if Afghanistan can go back to its former state.” Nilofar said, adding that she received a UN scholarship to attend university in Kazakhstan, but is still awaiting approval for her visa. She says she is determined to follow friends who fled in a frenzy of evacuation flights as US and NATO troops withdrew, and as Taliban militants invaded the capital on August 15.
Nilofar’s best friend, Florance, was among them. A 23-year-old Kabul University graduate, she now lives in temporary accommodation in the Paris suburbs, where she is trying to learn French and is considering applying for her master’s degree in commerce. She says she was heartbroken to leave Afghanistan, but felt there was no future for her there.
“I left my homeland, my home, my mother, my sister, my brothers, my beloved little nephews, my memories, my friends, with tears,” she said. The last time she saw Nilofar was two weeks before the Taliban took power, during an English class they had taken together for four years in the hopes of traveling to the foreigner.
“We were like sisters. We did everything together,” said Florence. “We had a lot of fun, but now I miss all of those things.”
For the women who remain in Afghanistan, life has been stuck in a perpetual state of limbo.
“My parents used to tell us a lot of stories about the Taliban … so we have this strong nightmare within us,” Nilofar said. “I can’t believe we are living under their flag now; life has become so difficult for us … Besides just sitting at home there is nothing we can do. Our stress levels are very high.”
The Taliban’s rule in 2021 is developing differently across the diverse nation, particularly in the countryside, where some of its strict rules have never really backed down and patriarchal traditions reign supreme. But in Afghan cities, where women’s daily lives have changed dramatically in recent years, the return of the Taliban looks like a death sentence.
“This generation, their eyes are open – they have seen the world even though they have not traveled, they have seen it through social media,” Ahmad added.
As their physical world has shrunk, young Afghan women have increasingly turned to social media as a way to share their anxieties through private voice notes, private Instagram messages, and posts with friends. .
“Today we are only connected by WhatsApp, and we are talking about memories, but we are mainly talking about the situation in Afghanistan. My friends who are still in Afghanistan, they are really depressed,” said Florance. She tries to support Nilofar and other friends, who are looking for legal routes out of the country, but often doesn’t know how to advise them.
“It’s very difficult to ask, ‘How are they? What are they doing ? “Because I know now they’re not doing anything and they’re not feeling well, or that they have depression or anxiety and when I talk to most of them they are desperate,” he said. said Hossnia Mohsini, 30. Before fleeing to France, she worked as an advisor to a non-governmental organization in Afghanistan, promoting leadership skills and non-violent communication.
She recently hosted a virtual circle of empathy on Zoom for some of the NGO’s former consultants, most of whom are in their twenties and still live in Afghanistan. Mohsini said she started with an open question, “What is alive in you right now?” She said the responses were heartbreaking, especially from young women, who said they were trying to keep up with their education but were unable to focus on anything and felt trapped at home.
It is this kind of desperation that drives the WhatsApp conversations between Nilofar and Florance, which have faded in recent weeks and months. Between the jet lag and settling into their new routines, it became more difficult to speak. The two say they hope to see each other soon, but aren’t sure when it might be.
“We don’t talk as much as we used to. I know she’s busy, she just started taking French lessons and she needs to become independent. That’s why I don’t try to bother her so much,” said declared Nilofar. “But we stay connected, and I want to continue our friendship.”
The WhatsApp conversations included in this story have been translated from voice notes and written messages. They have been modified slightly for clarity and length.
Eliza Mackintosh has written and reported from London. Nilly Kohzad reported from Istanbul. Development by Marco Chacon.
Breaking News Updates Google News As the Taliban swept Kabul, a friend escaped. The other was trapped. They shared their anguish on WhatsApp