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Afghanistan: A woman’s story of life under the Taliban in 1999

As the Taliban prepare to form a new government in Afghanistan, one woman tells the story of how her family were torn apart when her father disappeared during Taliban rule in 1999.

Friba, who lives in London, was 10 years old when she last saw her father at their home in the western city of Herat.

Her family believes he was abducted by the Taliban.

This is her story. Names have been removed to protect the identities of those involved.


“Living under the rule of the Taliban regime is like being in an abusive relationship. At first it’s good. They make lots of promises, they watch their steps, they even deliver on some of their promises.

“But while you are being lulled into a false sense of security, they are making their plans.

“Soon, and little by little as the world gets bored of Afghanistan and the media moves on to another news story, they tighten their power grip day by day, and the savage cycle begins anew.

“My father was born in Herat. He graduated from Kabul University.

“After university he got married and started to work within a small team for the then Afghan government.

“As the Russians left and the Mujahadin took power my father found a job with an NGO.

“When the Taliban moved into Herat, my father had the opportunity to leave, but he stayed. He loved his job, and he loved Herat.

‘I will never forget my mother’s face’

“Life was brutal under the Taliban regime. He had four daughters who were being robbed of an education and a young baby son.

“But work was rewarding, he had ambitions, for himself and for us, and working with animals made life a little bearable.

“One morning in mid-June 1999 my father had just finished breakfast and was getting ready to leave for work.

“He looked at me and smiled as he got on his bike and left.

“A few minutes later some of our neighbors appeared at our door with his bike. They said the Taliban had taken him.

“I will never forget my mother’s face. It was frozen in shock.

“She took my five-year-old brother’s hand and ran out of the door, desperate to find him.

“That evening my mother returned with the weight of the world on her shoulders.

“There was no news of my father, no news of where he was or if he was even alive.

“My uncles and other friends tried unsuccessfully to find out about where he was being held.

A woman walks into a building in HeratIMAGE SOURCEAFP

“Every day my mother would visit every Taliban office. They refused to listen to her.

“After exhausting every avenue, my uncle went to Kandahar where he had heard the Taliban had moved some prisoners. But there was no news.

“Then he went to Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif but he wasn’t there either.

“Our neighbours who had witnessed his arrest were sure, and they had seen those same Taliban members arresting other neighbours and later releasing them from a prison in Herat.

“My mother was strong, a lioness, she would not let it go.

“Against family advice she took my brother (because under Taliban rule she could only travel with a male even though he was just a child) and went to Kandahar to the office of the leader of the Taliban, Mullah Omar.

“The Taliban beat and threatened her. They said if she was seen again she would be stoned to death.

“My mother returned home disappointed and defeated.

‘We cannot forgive the Taliban’

“Life under the Taliban went from a living hell to a black hole of hopelessness.

“My mother, fearing for our lives, decided to leave Afghanistan and took us to Mashhad, Iran.

“In 2004 when things had improved in Afghanistan we returned. We wanted to study and make something of ourselves.

“Our father had hopes for us that we wanted to fulfil.

“I still remember his charming smile, and I still have the pen he gave me.

“We cannot mourn him, and we will not forget him.

“As we watch the news of the Taliban taking over Afghanistan again I fear that history will repeat itself.

“I am married now and live in England. But I am afraid for my mother, sisters and brother who are still in Afghanistan, and for the millions of families who will suffer pain and loss like we did.

“Their only crime, being born in Afghanistan.”

Produced by Rozina Sini

Humira Saqib

Humira Saqib (born 1980) is an Afghan journalist and women's human rights activist. She is one of the leading activists who through her writings in the magazine Negah-e-Zan (A Vision of Women) and in Afghan Women's News Agency, has been protesting against extreme forms of harassment against women in her radically Islamic country. She pleads that the parliament should enact laws for "Elimination of Violence against Women and enforce it vigorously.... Education, is also a key to changing mentalities around women's roles in society."[1][2][3] She is now pursuing her efforts to further women's rights by working for the women's news agency as a writer and editor.[

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