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Not Keeping Its Word: Afghan Woman Quits Job After Pressure From Taliban

Afghan women walk past a Taliban fighter on the streets of Kabul.

KABUL -- A young Afghan woman has quit her job at a private foreign-language center in Kabul after what she described as intimidation and harassment by Taliban fighters stationed outside her workplace.

The 24-year-old English teacher -- whose name is being withheld for her protection -- returned to her office this week when it reopened for the first time since the Taliban took control of the Afghan capital on August 15.

"I was excited to go to work after staying home for three weeks," she said. "I put on Islamic clothing and went to work, but the moment I arrived there I faced insults and shouting from Taliban fighters standing at the entrance."

The teacher said armed Taliban militants were guarding the commercial building that houses several companies and offices in a crowded neighborhood in downtown Kabul.

Taliban fighters stand guard at an entrance gate outside the Interior Ministry in Kabul on August 17. The armed militants are a common sight in the capital.
Taliban fighters stand guard at an entrance gate outside the Interior Ministry in Kabul on August 17. The armed militants are a common sight in the capital.

"When I tried to enter my office, one of them asked me, 'Where are you going?' I told them that I work here. He said: 'Who told you to come? Go back home, fast,'" the woman told RFE/RL on September 10.

The language instructor said she was particularly concerned when the fighters called her an "infidel."

"One of them said, 'Look, she works at the place which teaches the language of infidels, so she is an infidel.' Yes, they called me an infidel even though I was wearing the Islamic hijab," the woman said.

Terrified by the comments from the gun-wielding men, she decided to immediately leave work.

Further harassment and insults came from several other Taliban fighters standing outside public buildings and along the roads in central Kabul. As she walked past they scolded her for being "out on the streets" on her own.

In some provinces, the Taliban has reportedly banned women from leaving home unless accompanied by a male relative.

No such demand was made publicly yet for women in Kabul. But the English teacher said Taliban fighters shouted at her, "What the hell are you doing walking alone outside your home?"

'Within Islamic Norms, But Not Yet'

Two days after taking Kabul, the Taliban said women were allowed to return to work "within Islamic norms." However, a Taliban spokesman said women should stay at home for now, as the Taliban fighters were "not trained" to respect women.

The Taliban's interim government doesn't include any women. But senior Taliban officials have said women employees at the ministries would be allowed to continue their work.

But the former Kabul English teacher said the Taliban promises were a sham. She doesn't believe the Taliban government genuinely wants women to have careers.

"Taliban statements about letting women work are just a fake show for the international community to get aid. Once the Taliban gets what it wants from the outside world, it will end everything," she said.

The teacher said three other women in her circle experienced similar assaults by Taliban fighters when they tried to go to work. They all quit their jobs rather than face the harassment, she said.

Speaking from her home in Kabul, the teacher told RFE/RL she was "too scared" to return to work.

"I used to work hard, sometimes I would stay in the office until 8 p.m. or work on the weekends, too," the teacher said. "All my efforts, all my hard work, my education became nothing at the end."

The teacher fears she might never be able to work or even freely walk alone on the streets as long as the Taliban remains in power in Afghanistan.

Written by Farangis Najibullah based on reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Azadi