"After 15th of August, I couldn’t sleep for five other days.
"There was so much coming into my mind. The first that was coming to my mind— like, what will happen to me? And the second thing was, how should I protect my family if war begins? And then, like, what if I cannot go to school?"
This is GulAmiz, a 19-year old Aghan girl remembering how she felt a year ago today when the Taliban seized control of Kabul.
Mariam was told she should stay at home—"you don’t need to have dreams for your future." Muneera says, "The work I do a lot is washing dishes."
I first heard these voices on March 25, 2022, in an episode of "The Daily" from The New York Times, produced by Lynsea Garrison and Stella Tan who had talked to young women about their lives in Afghanistan over a period of several months. The title of the podcast stuck in my head: "The Dreams We Had Are Like a Dream." And so did their voices. One wants to be an artist like Van Gogh. Another a cancer researcher... a journalist...a politician...a computer engineer. GulAmiz wants to be a scientist. But what does the future hold now that GulAmiz says she has grown up fast and feels like an old lady?
In 2013, I interviewed girls and boys from Kabul who attended ANIM, the Afghanistan National Institute of Music. They had traveled to Washington, D.C., to perform at the Kennedy Center and were on their way to Carnegie Hall and the New England Conservatory of Music. One young girl named Gulalai had a lot of persuading to do before her uncle granted her permission to travel. It took her several days but she succeeded. She told me she wanted more than anything to grow up to be a music teacher so that other girls would have the same opportunity she had.
That was nine years ago. Many of the students—girls and boys—and faculty from ANIM were safely airlifted from Kabul to Doha. ANIM has now relocated to Lisbon where they were able to reestablish the school.
I often think of Gulalai laughing in the KC Cafe of the Kennedy Center. Where is she now? Will we cross paths again? How many times have I been reminded that the world is a small place... Or not that small.
Today's Times featured testimonies from five Afghan women, all fighting for change, all holding out hope—on this one-year anniversary of the day when so many women lost their freedom and so many girls were forced to abandon their education. They organize protests; they keep a coding school for women operating in Herat; they sing; they speak out. Will they make miracles happen?