Farzana Kochai, an Afghan senator, says she fears for her life first and her freedom second, but that Afghans will not tolerate a return to the darkest kinds of Islamist control.
She, like other Afghans, is staying at home, unsure how the situation will play out for elected representatives like her – or anybody else – under a group that imposed strict Islamic mores and punishments on society when it was in power.
“As an MP, as a female, as someone who is coming from civil society, activism and human rights, women’s rights, coming from this background for sure I am afraid for myself, my life, my freedom to work and my freedom to speak up,” she said by Zoom.
Blindsided by the speed of events, the 29-year-old, who was born in the northern province of Baghlan and has represented nomadic Afghans for more than two years, fires off the questions churning in her mind.
For the latter, Kochai sees two scenarios: one, where women can study and work, but with some limitations. This is the one outlined by Taliban representatives, who say women must wear headscarves but not be fully veiled and will be free to work and learn.
The second scenario would see women “removed from society” – as Kochai put it – not allowed to leave home without a male escort, barred from employment and school beyond a certain age.
This was the way of life when the Taliban governed from 1996 to 2001, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated on Monday that there were already reports of rising human rights violations against women and girls.
Kochai stated that the generation born after 2001 will no longer tolerate hardline government.
“If we can’t strike a good agreement with the Taliban, if the Taliban can’t satisfy the people of Afghanistan somehow or a little bit, then there will be resistance,” she predicted, predicting further conflict.
“I’m terrified of these things,” she admitted. “First and foremost, my life… and then my independence.”