A girl amidst smoke and gunpowder

Zahra Rahimi resists the ban of women's education in Pul Khomri

By Salma Haidari


The secret schools of Afghanistan

One of thousands of secret classrooms in Afghanistan. The Taliban banned Women from teaching and Girls from attending classes after primary school.

The sixteen-year-old woman stands in front of a group of Students. Zahra Rahimi* points on a girl of maybe ten and asks her.
“What is the duty of women in society?” The student thinks shortly, smiles, and answers, “To study”.

Some of her classmate’s giggle. Teacher Zahra is only about six years older than most of her students, but she knows how to encourage them in the right direction.

“That is a smart answer, Dear.” The little girl flashes red and smiles.
The fragile woman veiled in black is standing in a small room, thirty children are watching her with aspiration in their eyes. She teaches Quran, Dari, Math, and English for two hours and hidden from evil eyes.

The place, we talk after the end of the lesson, can’t be named not to risk the safety of everyone in this forbidden classroom.
Hiding and longing for dreams gone by
Zahra Rahimi looks around to make sure that we are alone, and she isn’t in danger.  As she gazes at the ground, she continues with a deep sigh,

“I have waited for years to achieve my aspirations and have endured numerous battles with my family and surroundings. My dream was to become a teacher and help the suffering and oppressed girls of our land, girls who need education for a brighter future. However, suddenly, this dream vanished.”


She was born in 2007 in one of Pul Khomri city’s districts, and still lives in this city today. Pul Khumri is the capital and largest city of Baghlan Province in the north of Afghanistan. As a sixteen-year-old woman, Zahra has no rights in the current society. Because of the government bans, she is unable to continue her education beyond seventh grade and speaks with despair in her eyes.
“I was born into a traditional family and environment where learning and working are considered shameful.” Girls are limited to household chores and marriage after they reach puberty, she underlines. “
Nevertheless, Zahra isn’t willing to give up. Teaching is at least an activity connected to education, but she is not supposed to do it.
“With the arrival of the Taliban, new restrictions have been imposed, leaving us with no other fate than forced marriages. Young women commit suicide because they feel deprived of their rights and raped.”



Zahra’s voice is hoarse, and she clenches her throat with anger, but she refuses to succumb to these pressures and adds,
“I was in the ninth grade when school gates closed to girls beyond the sixth grade. The closure deeply affected my morale and that of my classmates, even causing depression. I wanted to provide education to girls left out of school and to illiterate women. Initially, families opposed educating their daughters and deemed learning a foreign language as against our culture. Currently, I teach Quran, Dari, Math, and English to 30 students in two hours. For now, the ground is suitable for girls deprived of education and illiterate women to learn to read and write. Learning science and knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim man and woman.”

Despite Zahra’s dwindling hope for the future and her perception of life as a narrow cage for the women of her society, she has a message for the ruling regime in Afghanistan and the global community,


“My message to the government and the global community is to open school gates to girls and let women enjoy their rights. Women and men are two wings of a bird that can fly together simultaneously. A society progresses when men and women work together. We Afghan girls and women have not asked for anything beyond our rights.”


Translation by Shahzad Mudasir


*The name is changed


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