‘I Haven't Seen A Day Of Peace In My Life'
Forbes Africa|December 2021 - January 2022
Faced with an uncertain present, women and girls in Afghanistan hope the new Taliban regime will ease the restrictions on them and that the international community will intervene. For now, their only option is to stay strong and reconcile their dreams with the current reality.
By Paula Slier with additional reporting by Sasha Star

IN A CRUMBLING ONE-ROOM APARTMENT IN Kabul’s Old City, two 20-something sisters and their 45-year-old mother are smoking cannabis laced with heroin. They don’t look up as we enter awkwardly, following our translator to sit on the far end of the carpet.

I count eight children, the youngest of whom is just three years old. Much to the amusement of the smoking women, one of their daughters, a 12-year-old, takes a few puffs of a discarded joint to show us that she too knows how to smoke.

The Chindawol neighborhood was once home to educated and elite Afghans. But over the years since the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in late December 1979, its streets and alleyways have been swarmed by mostly illiterate and low-skilled people.

There is no central sewage system and the putrid smell of waste drips from tired buildings. Outside, donkeys gnaw on bits of trash lying in the streets and snotty-nosed children dip buckets into dirty water that runs down the sandy pavements. They use the filthy liquid to wash parked cars in a bid to earn a few pennies. Not one traffic light works in the country’s capital city, Kabul.

The older woman whose lined face resembles that of an 80-year-old, opens a sack of rice riddled with mice droppings that a neighbor gave them. The wide-eyed children stare. The translator explains they haven’t eaten for four days. As I wrap up the interview, the 12-year-old whispers in a choked voice that her mother tried to sell her. Raw with pain, she spits out the words. She recalls how her mother took her to the bazaar and after the daughter understood what was happening, she started screaming. It drew the attention of an old man who scolded her mother, gave her a few dollars and sent them home. Now as long as the girl spends her days going from house-to-house begging, her mother has promised not to sell her. She then stretches out her palm to me…

Sadly, this story is not that uncommon.

Since the capture of Afghanistan in August by the Taliban, a fundamentalist political and military movement, the situation in the country has reportedly deteriorated by the day. According to the United Nations, the new regime doesn’t have the funds to provide food and other basic essentials to the population.

The result is that more than half – a record 22.8 million people – will go hungry. In a barefaced attempt to survive, a growing number of families are choosing to sell their children. The mother of the 12-year-old had hoped to receive $300 for her daughter.

This is the second time the Taliban is in power in Afghanistan. The group first seized control in 1996 from the retreating Soviet army. They were ousted five years later with the arrival of American and NATO troops. History, many fear, is about to repeat itself.

Locals remember only too clearly the repression they faced under the Taliban then. Women were not allowed to work, study or appear in public without fully covering their body and accompanied by male escorts. Those who violated the organization’s strict interpretation of Islamic law were imprisoned, publicly flogged and even executed.

I’ve had a lot of personal losses over the past 40 years of war, but I’ve never been as hopeless and helpless as I am right now. – Naheed Samadi Bahram

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM FORBES AFRICAView All

‘I Haven't Seen A Day Of Peace In My Life'

Faced with an uncertain present, women and girls in Afghanistan hope the new Taliban regime will ease the restrictions on them and that the international community will intervene. For now, their only option is to stay strong and reconcile their dreams with the current reality.

9 mins read
Forbes Africa
December 2021 - January 2022

African Of The Year

Nana Akufo-Addo, Ghana’s president, has repositioned the country in the global marketplace as one reliant on its own resources and strengths. He is redefining economic development and it’s resonating across Africa. In an exclusive interview with Forbes Africa, he dwells on the new focus of the West African nation that has in recent years consistently been one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

10+ mins read
Forbes Africa
December 2021 - January 2022

The $30 Billion Kitty

The standard playbook in private equity is to borrow, buy and cut costs ruthlessly. But a massive windfall from investments in PetSmart and Chewy has taught BC Partners’ Raymond Svider that sometimes, doubling down on risks is a better option.

4 mins read
Forbes Africa
December 2021 - January 2022

Appetite For Business

Starting with just $45, Ghanaian entrepreneur Violet Amoabeng’s startup has progressed with skincare products you can eat and the unpalatable realization that the only way to make it in business is to crash, break, stretch and succeed.

4 mins read
Forbes Africa
December 2021 - January 2022

Electric Dreams: East Africa On The Move

Electric Vehicles (EV) are fast becoming a mainstay of daily commutes around the world. From battery-powered vehicles to electric public buses, we are on the precipice of a revolution in the automotive industry. Africa is not excluded in this new movement with burgeoning sectors looking to change the way African cities move – and breathe! FORBES AFRICA looks at how the EV market is moving in East Africa.

5 mins read
Forbes Africa
December 2021 - January 2022

The Future In Motion

The six-month Expo 2020 bringing together 192 countries to Dubai that opened on October 1 is exploring opportunities for partnerships between Africa and the Middle East. Get a load of barista bots that make coffee and tell jokes, do calligraphy or tai-chi, and ones that bring Beethoven’s work to life through performance.

3 mins read
Forbes Africa
December 2021 - January 2022

The Anti-Amazon

Josh Silverman is using cutting-edge technology and an army of 5 million artisan-entrepreneurs to transform ETSY from a hippie flea market into a Wall Street hero—without losing its soul.

4 mins read
Forbes Africa
December 2021 - January 2022

The Together Man In Regional Cinema

At the cornerstone of contemporary Swahili cinema, Tanzanian filmmaker Amil Shivji is adamant about telling stories of contrast and community and promoting local talent.

4 mins read
Forbes Africa
December 2021 - January 2022

Change Is Brewing

Coffee shops were amongst the biggest casualties of the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet, while the café industry suffered, coffee itself was able to survive with consumers attempting to emulate the cups they craved.

6 mins read
Forbes Africa
October - November 2021

Future Of The Cannabis Market In Africa

With the cannabis economy gradually opening up in Africa, leading players talk about the commercial opportunities as also the consumer and patient wellness it offers. What are the barriers to building something new from the ground up in this space?

4 mins read
Forbes Africa
October - November 2021