The day after Mazar-i-Sharif, the provincial capital of Balkh province, fell to the Taliban on August 14, gunmen came after Raihana’s six-year-old daughter *.
Widowed when her husband was killed by Taliban forces in 2020, Raihana had been raising her son as a single mother. After her husband’s death, she fought her in-laws for custody of their daughter and won, thanks to the rights she had under Afghan civil law, which states that single women can keep their children if they can support them financially.
Now, with her city in the hands of the Taliban, Raihana was alone.
“The day after the fall of Mazar-i-Sharif, my brother-in-law showed up at my father’s house, where I lived, with the Taliban fighters demanding to give them my daughter,” Raihana told The Guardian.
Raihana was lucky. She and her daughter were not at home when the gunmen arrived. As soon as he found out, he took his son and fled from Mazar-i-Sharif to Kabul.
“They wanted to take my daughter from me,” he said. “We hid in sacks of flour in the back of a truck and when the driver found us we begged him to take us to Kabul.”
Once in the Afghan capital, Raihana went from embassy to embassy seeking help. Eventually his sister, who lives in the UK, was able to fly the two of them out of Afghanistan to safety. They are now in Manchester.
“I managed to get out of Afghanistan after so many difficulties. I am so happy that my daughter is with me, ”says Raihana. “I am grateful to the UK government.”
The lives of single mothers in Afghanistan have always been marred by stigma, poverty and marginalization. Now, with the Taliban in command, the few protections they had have disappeared and their situation is increasingly desperate.
Yalda, 28, a single mother of three, hides in Kabul while her ex-husband searches for their children.
“My ex-husband is a member of the Taliban now and he is trying to take my children,” she said. “My father’s house is surrounded. They constantly harass them, looking for me and my children. He wants to take advantage of any opportunity he gets. “
Yalda * says her husband terrorized her for years. “My father arranged the marriage when I was only 14 years old. I didn’t know anything about being married, I was still a child myself, ”she says.
Soon after, Yalda became pregnant and had two more children in the following years. She also discovered that her husband was a member of the Taliban. She says her marriage was one of violence and abuse.
“He wouldn’t let our daughter go to school. He hit me with his belt when I insisted [that she go to school]. My body is covered with marks from their violence, ”he says.
In 2014, Yalda decided she had had enough. “One winter night, when my husband was with the Taliban, I took our children and ran away. It was very cold and dark but I managed to escape with the help of our neighbor. I took my children and got into a car that was going to Kabul ”.
Yalda fled to Pakistan and returned to Afghanistan only when her husband was arrested and imprisoned by the Afghan security forces. When she returned, she was granted custody of her children, but now, with the Taliban back in power, she is terrified of what will happen. Still in hiding, she hopes her US visa application will be successful, but has no idea how she will be able to leave.
“I have endured a lot for my children since 2014,” he says. “I have tolerated a lot of pain to maintain them. I was both mother and father to them.
“I will never abandon them, but I need help to keep them with me.”
* names have been changed
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism