By the time the Taliban captured Kabul, Zarifa Ghafari knew her life would never be the same again. The 29-year-old headed the city of Majdanszahr, the capital of the Afghan province of Wardak. She was one of the first female mayors in Afghanistan. She was aware that she was in mortal danger after the Islamic fundamentalists took power in the country. She decided to leave her homeland. Together with her family, she managed to escape to Germany. She told the story of her dramatic escape to the BBC.
Shortly after the Taliban took power, the Taliban appeared in front of Zarifa Ghafari’s house and beat up a security guard. The 29-year-old – who was a well-known public figure and a women’s rights activist – believed that she was a threat in the eyes of the Taliban who limited women’s rights. “My voice had a power that rifles don’t have,” she said.
In anticipation of death
On August 17, two days after the Taliban gained power in Afghanistan, the mayor admitted that she was just waiting for the Taliban to find and kill her and her husband. – I’m sitting here waiting for them to come. There is no one who can help me or my family. I’m just sitting with my husband and family. And they will come for people like me and kill me. I can’t leave my family. Anyway, where would I go? – she told the British newspaper “i”.
Already in recent years, Ghafani could not feel safe in her country. In 2018, at the age of 26, she became the mayor of Majdanszahr, the capital of the Afghan province of Wardak, located in the center of Afghanistan. It is a conservative city where the Taliban has long enjoyed widespread support. That year, when she became the head of the local authorities, several attacks were carried out on her, and she miraculously survived. Hostility towards the mayor cost her father’s life, a high-ranking Afghan military man who was murdered late last year, the BBC writes.
After the Taliban took power in Afghanistan, it was obvious that Ghafani and her relatives would be targeted by fundamentalists. Although she did not want to leave her beloved homeland, the 29-year-old finally decided to flee the country.
On August 18, she managed to arrange a car to take her and her family to the Kabul airport. – When we got to the airport gate, there were Taliban fighters everywhere. I tried to hide from them – she recalled in an interview with the BBC. The woman hid in the place where the passengers keep their legs and thus drove through the Taliban checkpoints.
With the help of the Turkish ambassador in Kabul, she managed to board a flight to Istanbul. – When I lost my dad, I thought I would never feel this pain again. But when I got on the plane with which I was about to leave my country, it was more painful than losing my father, Ghafari confessed. The collapse of Kabul was “the worst moment of her life”, she added. – I will never get rid of the pain I feel in my heart. I have never planned to leave my country – she emphasized in an interview with the BBC. She admitted, however, that she was one of the lucky ones, as the situation at the capital airport was becoming more and more dangerous day by day.
From Turkey, Ghafari and her family traveled to Germany, where they are now safe.
It is not the end
The Afghan woman has announced that she will want to meet politicians and world leaders to draw attention to the living conditions of Afghans under the Taliban rule. However, he also intends to talk to the Taliban because “we need to understand each other.” – Foreign forces won’t help us. It’s time for us to sort things out with the Taliban ourselves. I am ready to take on this responsibility – she declared.
She added that she took a lump of Afghan soil with her when she was leaving and that she hopes that someday she will be able to bring her back.
Main photo source: Federico Gambarini / PAP / EPA