Nafeesa has found an excellent place to cover her schoolbooks from the prying eyes of her disapproving Taliban brother — the kitchen, the place Afghan males hardly ever enterprise.
A whole lot of 1000’s of women and younger girls like Nafeesa have been disadvantaged of the possibility of schooling for the reason that Taliban returned to energy a yr in the past, however their thirst for studying has not lessened.
“Boys don’t have anything to do within the kitchen, so I maintain my books there,” mentioned Nafeesa, who attends a secret college in a village in rural japanese Afghanistan.
“If my brother involves find out about this, he’ll beat me.”
Since seizing energy a yr in the past, the Taliban have imposed harsh restrictions on women and girls to adjust to their austere imaginative and prescient of Islam — successfully squeezing them out of public life.
Girls can not journey on lengthy journeys with no male family member to escort them.
They’ve additionally been informed to cowl up with the hijab or ideally with an all-encompassing burqa — though the Taliban’s acknowledged desire is for them to solely depart house if completely needed.
And, within the cruellest deprivation, secondary colleges for women in lots of elements of Afghanistan haven’t been allowed to reopen.
However secret colleges have sprung up in rooms of strange homes throughout the nation.
A workforce of AFP journalists visited three of those colleges, interviewing college students and lecturers whose actual names have been withheld for his or her security.
That is their story.
– ‘We would like freedom’ –
Many years of turmoil have performed havoc with Afghanistan’s schooling system, so Nafeesa continues to be finding out secondary college topics regardless that she is already 20.
Solely her mom and older sister find out about it.
Her brother fought for years with the Taliban in opposition to the previous authorities and US-led forces within the mountains, returning house after their victory imbued with the hardline doctrine that claims a girl’s place is the house.
He permits her to attend a madrassa to check the Koran within the morning, however within the afternoon she sneaks out to a clandestine classroom organised by the Revolutionary Affiliation of the Girls of Afghanistan (RAWA).
“We’ve got accepted this threat, in any other case we are going to stay uneducated,” Nafeesa mentioned.
“I wish to be a physician… We wish to do one thing for ourselves, we wish to have freedom, serve society and construct our future.”
When AFP visited her college, Nafeesa and 9 different ladies had been discussing freedom of speech with their feminine trainer, sitting side-by-side on a carpet and taking turns studying out loud from a textbook.
To get to class, they incessantly depart house hours earlier, taking completely different routes to keep away from being observed in an space made up principally of members of the Pashtun ethnic group, who type the majority of the Taliban and are recognized for his or her conservative methods.
If a Taliban fighter asks, the ladies say they’re enrolled in a tailoring workshop, and conceal their schoolbooks in procuring luggage or underneath their abaya and burqa overgarments.
They not solely take dangers, but additionally make sacrifices — Nafeesa’s sister dropped out of college to restrict any suspicions her brother might need.
– No justification in Islam –
Spiritual students say there is no such thing as a justification in Islam for the ban on ladies’ secondary college schooling and, a yr since taking energy, the Taliban nonetheless insist courses will likely be allowed to renew.
However the problem has break up the motion, with a number of sources telling AFP a hardline faction that advises supreme chief Hibatullah Akhundzada opposed any ladies’ education — or at finest, needed it restricted to spiritual research and sensible courses similar to cooking and needlework.
The official line, nonetheless, stays that it’s only a “technical problem” and courses will resume as soon as a curriculum based mostly on Islamic guidelines is outlined.
Main ladies nonetheless go to highschool and, for now at the very least, younger girls can attend college — though lectures are segregated and a few topics reduce due to a scarcity of feminine lecturers.
With out a secondary college certificates, nonetheless, teenage ladies will be unable to sit down college entrance exams, so this present crop of tertiary feminine college students could possibly be the nation’s final for the foreseeable future.
“Training is an inalienable proper in Islam for each women and men,” scholar Abdul Bari Madani informed AFP.
“If this ban continues, Afghanistan will return to the medieval age… a whole technology of women will likely be buried.”
– Misplaced technology –
It’s this worry of a misplaced technology that spurred trainer Tamkin to transform her house in Kabul into a faculty.
The 40-year-old was virtually misplaced herself, having been pressured to cease finding out in the course of the Taliban’s first stint in energy, from 1996 to 2001, when all ladies’ education was banned.
It took years of self-study for Tamkin to qualify as a trainer, just for her to lose her job on the schooling ministry when the Taliban returned final yr.
“I didn’t need these ladies to be like me,” she informed AFP, tears rolling down her cheeks.
“They need to have a greater future.”
With the help of her husband, Tamkin first turned a storeroom into a category.
Then she bought a household cow to boost funds for textbooks, as most of her ladies got here from poor households and couldn’t afford their very own.
At this time, she teaches English and science to about 25 keen college students.
On a wet day lately, the ladies trickled into her classroom for a biology lesson.
“I simply wish to research. It doesn’t matter what the place is like,” mentioned Narwan, who ought to be in grade 12, sitting in a room filled with ladies of all ages.
Behind her, a poster on a wall urges college students to be thoughtful: “Tongue has no bones, however it’s so sturdy that it might break the guts, so watch out of your phrases.”
Such consideration by her neighbours has helped Tamkin maintain the varsity’s actual function hidden.
“The Taliban have requested a number of instances ‘what’s occurring right here?’ I’ve informed the neighbours to say it’s a madrassa,” Tamkin mentioned.
Seventeen-year-old Maliha believes firmly the day will come when the Taliban will not be in energy.
“Then we are going to put our information to good use,” she mentioned.
– ‘Not afraid of Taliban’ –
On the outskirts of Kabul, in a maze of mud homes, Laila is one other trainer operating underground courses.
Taking a look at her daughter’s face after the deliberate reopening of secondary colleges was cancelled, she knew she needed to do one thing.
“If my daughter was crying, then the daughters of different dad and mom should even be crying,” the 38-year-old mentioned.
A couple of dozen ladies collect two days per week at Laila’s home, which has a courtyard and a backyard the place she grows greens and fruit.
The classroom has a large window opening to the backyard, and ladies with textbooks saved in blue plastic folders sit on a carpet — glad and cheerful, finding out collectively.
As the category begins, one after the other they learn out the solutions to their homework.
“We aren’t afraid of the Taliban,” mentioned scholar Kawsar, 18.
“If they are saying something, we are going to struggle it out however proceed to check.”
However the proper to check is just not the one intention for some Afghan women and girls — who’re all too incessantly married off into abusive or restrictive relationships.
Zahra, who attends a secret college in japanese Afghanistan, was married at 14 and now lives with in-laws who oppose the thought of her attending courses.
She takes sleeping capsules to struggle her nervousness — frightened her husband’s household will power him to make her keep house.
“I inform them I’m going to the native bazaar and are available right here,” mentioned Zahra of her secret college.
For her, she says, it’s the solely option to make pals.