If there is something I really like about a taxi ride in Dubai it is the conversation with the cabbie. Their life stories are worth listening to and if they are not talking about themselves they tell you things about Dubai that you will probably not find in any website or self-help tourist book.
Two days back it was during one such trip to a friend’s place in Al Nahda that I got talking to the cab driver, who was from Afghanistan. We talked about the mudslide in Aab Barik village in Afghanistan‘s remote north that had claimed thousands of lives.
I told him apart from the chaos and mayhem that came alive on television I had noticed something else. The women – they were covered from head-to-toe in blue burqas, exactly the kind that was imposed during the Taliban rule which lasted till 2001.
I asked him, “Does this mean the Taliban laws still work in Afghanistan?”
I am jotting down what he told me:
“Taliban are still active in the remote villages”
It is only in the big cities like Kabul and Kandahar where the Taliban can’t be active but almost everywhere else their ways still have to be followed. That is why you see the women in Aab Barik village still wearing those burqas for if they don’t they would face punishment. So even after they have lost their homes, their families, they have to ensure their blue burqas are in place.
“I could not have given my daughters an education because of the Taliban”
I have been working in the Middle East for the last 30 years and I used to work for an American expatriate in Saudi Arabia. He told me that come what may I should ensure that my daughters got an education. But that was not possible in the village in Afghanistan where we lived. There was a strict ban on girls going to school. I could have moved them to Kabul but the city has become so frighteningly expensive I could not have afforded it.
“The Taliban say that women should only go to women doctors but they don’t want Afghan women to become doctors”
I found this dichotomy ridiculous. My daughters are very bright and they wanted to become doctors. I thought if I followed the Taliban diktat I would be ruining their future. I had to find a way out.
“I shifted them from Afghanistan”
I moved them to Pakistan. Initially they were staying in a small town where my daughters were going to school. Then one of them topped the board exams. That’s when I moved them to a bigger city. Both of them cleared the medical entrance exams and have become doctors now.
“I would love to go back to Afghanistan”
End of the day that is home. But it is very hard to find employment there if you are an Afghan. In Kabul there is employment because there are so many foreign NGOs and other international groups working there. They don’t want to employ Afghans because they fear that they might become Taliban informers. I have an Afghan friend who has managed to get a Pakistani passport, has moved back to Afghanistan and is working as a driver and translator and earning a lot of money. But if they come to know he is Afghan then there might be trouble. This is such a pathetic state for us.
“It would have been great if my daughters could have taken care of Afghan women”
Women’s health is neglected in Afghanistan and they suffer during childbirth, due to disease, due to abuse by family and husband. They need good doctors to help them out. But it is out of the question for Afghan women doctors to travel to villages in their own country. They would land in trouble with the Taliban. I live with the hope that the situation would change one day and I would be able to go home with my daughters and they would be able to help our own people.