The day started out relatively normal, though there were some fears among us. In the days earlier, several provinces of Afghanistan had fallen into the hands of the Taliban, but no one thought the government would fall.
I would start my mornings by checking my phone to read the news circulated by journalists and people on social media before leaving for work. I was looking for good news. I did not find it.
On that morning of 15 August, I got to the office to find a few colleagues packing up sensitive documents in a black plastic bag. I asked one of them: “What has happened? Why are you collecting these papers?”
I was told that all of us needed to take our computers and any other devices that revealed our identities from the office, and go home. This was not normal, but I told myself that the US and other NATO countries involved in the war in Afghanistan would not let the achievements of 20 years be lost so easily.
I turned on my computer and transferred any important documents to my emails. And then one of my colleagues hurriedly approached and said: “The Taliban are near the city. The guard says to take your computers and leave the office immediately and be careful. Take your identity cards with you, hurry up.”
A strange fear settled over my body. I shut down my computer, took my documents and left the office. I had no idea that I would not see my colleagues and friends again.
When I left the office, just two hours after I had gone in, I found the situation on the street completely different. I caught a taxi with great difficulty because everyone was trying to get home. Shops were closed and children were crying despite having no knowledge about the Taliban. It took hours to cover my 20-minute route.
On my way home, I kept wondering: “Is everything going to end?” Afghan women do not have good memories of the Taliban.
In a short while, the whole city of Kabul was taken over by the sound of motorcycles and a special song that was sung to describe the Taliban. They had entered the city.
The government of the Republic of Afghanistan fell. The Taliban attacked the presidential palace and the president fled with other government officials. The Taliban announced a general amnesty, with criminals and accused persons released from prisons. Women who had been subjected to violence and were living in safe houses were thrown out, along with their children, by the Taliban.
Days went by and I was imprisoned at home. I did not want to go out because I was still in shock, and I did not want to see the Taliban’s faces.
In the beginning, the Taliban made many promises. My father used to tell me: “Bad nature doesn’t change; you have to be careful and don’t leave the house.”
A few weeks later, one of my father’s previous employees called him. When I asked what the call was about, he said: “The Taliban has prepared a list of government officials and former military employees to arrest. My name is on the list.”
My father was an intelligence police before the coming of the Taliban. Being in our house was risky, so we went to my grandmother’s. A few days later, the Taliban invaded our house and when they did not find us, they destroyed all our belongings. Our neighbours were warned to report any sightings of us immediately.
We spent just under five months in my grandmother’s house as we waited for Pakistani visas.
During these five months, I began working with WAN-IFRA Women in News, coordinating the Social Impact Reporting Initiative (SIRI) Afghanistan programme. The initiative supported more than 30 women journalists who lost their jobs because of the coming of the Taliban. Amid all the challenges I was facing, this programme was the only good thing to happen to me.
After receiving the visas, my family and I left for Pakistan. It did not mean an end to our suffering, but I was happy to be out of Afghanistan. After several days in Islamabad, I called a manager at an international media organisation, a previous employer, and asked for help. She worked with several other international organisations to assist us.
After six months, the Pakistani police started persecuting Afghan immigrants. Like many others, we had to bribe the police to avoid arrest even though we had legal documents and Pakistani visas. Finally, after several months, we received Australian visas. Our evacuation took place in February 2023, and we arrived in Australia after about a year in Pakistan.
Australia was a good option for us to start a new life. It is not easy, but we are happy that we have the support of the Australian government and have the right to get an education and work.
I want to restart my life, get my master’s degree and set new goals. I want to start journalism again. I want to be a voice for those silenced by war, discrimination, injustice and violence.