A young female student trapped in Kabul has made a desperate plea to the world on behalf of Afghan women.
Aisha Ahmad (not her real name), 22, spent four days trying to get into Kabul airport and feared she would be crushed to death as people stampeded.
She posted shocking footage of the crush, sharing clips with shots being heard in the background as people desperately shoved towards the airport.
Now, having all-but given up hope of escaping the Taliban‘s control as the August 31 deadline looms, the Kabul University student has told MailOnline that the hopes and aspiration of Afghan women in general are about to be trampled into the dust.
In her open letter, Aisha demanded that the nations of the West stand up for her and other women in the benighted nation.
She recalled how a previous generation of women in Afghanistan dared to dream of a ‘brighter future’ in 2001 as the Taliban’s first barbaric regime came to an end.
She highlighted role models such as an all-female orchestra called Zohra, which has toured the world, and the ‘Afghan Dreamers’ — a girls’ robotics team which flourished in the post-Taliban liberation.
She picked out Niloofar Rahmani, the first woman pilot in the Afghan air force, and Khatol Mohammadzai, the first female general in the Afghan National Army.
But she added: ‘We have achieved so much! Sorry – we had achieved so much.
Aisha Ahmad’s letter in full
Are Afghan women doomed to extinction?
Women were among the most deprived and restricted sections of Afghan society for many years, living always under the domination of the patriarchy, tightly constrained by the country’s prevailing cultural and societal norms.
The defeat of the Taliban in 2001 heralded the possibility of a brighter future; it ignited a spark of hope for a freer and more prosperous life.
It breathed empowerment into our souls. The flame of our confidence started to grow. Bigger. Stronger.
In the years since, our new generation of women has engaged in a continual struggle to change society’s perception of us, and to break our bonds.
We’ve gained considerable latitude, but many sacrifices were made along the way. Defamation, emotional and verbal abuse, cyber bullying, sexual harassment, rape, targeted assassination.
These weapons of intimidation and terror were all brought to bear on us, to try to keep us in our place.
In spite of these challenges, we have produced pioneers in many areas of life: cultural, political, economic, scientific, artistic, civil and military. Take for instance Zohra, the first ever all-women’s orchestra. Unthinkable in the 1990’s, it has thrived and toured and played concerts in prestigious venues across the globe.
And take the ‘Afghan Dreamers’ – an all-girl robotics team, which has dismantled gender norms and won international competitions while doing so. Or consider Niloofar Rahmani, the first woman pilot in the Afghan air force.
Or Khatol Mohammadzai, the first female general in the Afghan National Army. We have achieved so much! Sorry – we had achieved so much.
The Taliban’s return to domination of our country has returned pain and hopelessness to the lives of its women. It’s struck us like a thunderbolt, reducing our 20 years of achievement to ashes, laid waste to our aspirations.
We have been cast back out of sight, alone with only darkness in our future, no window of hope.
Our biggest fear is that the world will be deceived by the smooth words of the Taliban, the assurances that things will be different this time, the promises to grant us rights that already belong to us.
And that if the world recognises their government, their oppression and barbarism against us will be institutionalized, set in stone for generations.
The international community must stick to its moral position and stay faithful to its commitment to universal human rights.
It must insist the Taliban restore and uphold the fundamental rights of Afghan women at this critical juncture and lift us from our descent into misery.
10 years ago Hillary Clinton told a group of female Afghan ministers: ‘We will not abandon you; we will stand with you always.’ If the world and the US fails or abandon its commitments.
And reader, please don’t forget that we are human, not just pictures on your screen.
Afghan women are women. We have hopes and dreams. We think, love, hurt, yearn.
Just like your own mother, your own sisters, your own daughters. Just like you.
‘The Taliban’s return to domination of our country has returned pain and hopelessness to the lives of its women. It’s struck us like a thunderbolt, reducing our 20 years of achievement to ashes, laid waste to our aspirations.
‘We have been cast back out of sight, alone with only darkness in our future, no window of hope.’
Now she worries that the Taliban’s recent public-relations effort, telling women that they will be able to study and work under their new government, will be cynically binned as soon as the last NATO jet lifts off from the runway of Kabul Airport next Tuesday.
‘Our biggest fear is that the world will be deceived by the smooth words of the Taliban, the assurances that things will be different this time, the promises to grant us rights that already belong to us.
‘And that if the world recognises their government, their oppression and barbarism against us will be institutionalized, set in stone for generations.’
She called on the West not to recognise the Taliban unless they restore and protect the fundamental rights of Afghan women.
‘The international community must stick to its moral position and stay faithful to its commitment to universal human rights,’ she said.
‘It must insist the Taliban restore and uphold the fundamental rights of Afghan women at this critical juncture and lift us from our descent into misery. ‘
She recalled then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s words to a group of female Afghan ministers a decade ago, telling them: ‘We will not abandon you; we will stand with you always.’
Closing her moving letter, she wrote: ‘Please don’t forget that we are human, not just pictures on your screen… We have hopes and dreams. We think, love, hurt, yearn. Just like your own mother, your own sisters, your own daughters. Just like you.’
It comes as it was revealed UK troops could ‘sneak out’ people from Afghanistan up to the very last moment despite warnings there are just 36 hours to get another 4,000 to safety – after Joe Biden sparked fury by refusing to extend the deadline for forces leaving.
Dominic Raab admitted the evacuation mission is in its final desperate stages after the US president ‘point blank’ rejected G7 calls for a delay, arguing the risks of attack from the Taliban and ISIS were too high.
The decision means the airlift will have to stop tomorrow or Friday at the latest, to give Western forces time to wrap up their deployment. Both America and France are believed to have started pulling out personnel.
Former chief of the defence staff Lord Richards said he believes even after the last official flight the British military will ‘sneak others in who arrive late along with their own people’.
But there are already claims that the Taliban is defying Mr Biden by blocking fleeing Afghans from getting into the airport, and the coming days will see ‘maximum danger’ for troops with fears the regime will want to create a ‘Saigon’ moment and threats of a terrorist ‘spectacular’.
In a round of interviews this morning, Mr Raab said the UK is working ‘as fast as we can’ to maximise the number of people who can flee, saying 2,000 were taken to safety in the last 24 hours and almost all single-nationality Britons are now out.
‘We will use every hour and day we’ve got to maximise that throughput to get as many of those residual cases out,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programe.
‘We’re going to keep going for every day and every hour that we’ve got left.’
Mr Raab declined to say when the last UK flight will be leaving.
Overnight the US President insisted his troops were ‘on pace’ to leave Afghanistan by August 31, after rebuffing pleas by Boris Johnson and other G7 leaders for America to extend its evacuation timetable.
However, in a live TV broadcast, he warned the Taliban must ‘continue to co-operate’ with the US evacuation mission.
It comes amid claims from people on the ground in Kabul that Afghans are being prevented by Taliban fighters from accessing the city’s airport for evacuation.
Yesterday the extremists issued an edict banning nationals from leaving the country. They also blocked roads and set up check-points around Kabul airport.
Young female student Aisha Ahmad (not her real name), 22, spent four days trying to get into Kabul airport to escape the Taliban
She posted shocking footage of the crush, sharing clips with shots being heard in the background as people desperately shoved towards the airport
The student has all but given up on getting out of the country before August 31 and instead shared a passionate plea for help
With an American pull-out now likely to be complete by the end of the month, other countries, such as the UK, which are reliant on the air support from US troops, now face a race against time to complete their own evacuations.
Last night the Pentagon confirmed that several hundred US troops had already started leaving Afghanistan – and allies including the UK will want to have their troops out well before the US leaves.
The UK could now wrap up its mission within ’24 to 36 hours’, defence sources said.
Female Afghan journalist forced to change her address daily as she fears Taliban will kill her
A female Afghan journalist, 24, has reveled that she has had to move to different hiding places every day to avoid the Taliban – who she fears will kill her.
Talking to Fox News in an interview, she said: ‘I don’t know what will happen to me, because if they find me, they will kill me.
‘They are checking for the people who always talked against them. Every day, I’m changing my address to be sure that they can’t track me.’
The unnamed woman believes she will be a target because she was a frequent critic of the Taliban on air.
She said she talked against the Taliban because of the way the group ‘killed and burned’ the people of Afghanistan.
The journalist is staying with friends but has admitted she fears they could turn her in to protect themselves.
She added: ‘My friends are afraid because they think that they might be targeted because of me. I don’t know who is actually my enemy right now.’
The Taliban recently killed a relative of a Deutsche Welle journalist while going door to door looking for the reporter.
The female Afghan journalist said she fears the same will happen to her friends and family.’
Mr Raab said he was unclear how many people will be left behind in Afghanistan.
The Foreign Secretary said the figure depends on ‘the window’ left in terms of timing and how many people they manage to process over the next few days.
He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘It’s also how many want to come, as there are some finely balanced cases.’
Mr Raab said the details of how UK forces will withdraw were still being firmed up. There is speculation the British team will initially withdraw to the airport from the Baron hotel, where they have been processing applications.
The UK contingent is then expected to hand over duties to the Americans, who will be the last to leave.
‘The military planners are firming up the details of what the extra – the time they will need at the end to drawdown their own staff, personnel and equipment. We will get the details of that I’m sure, shortly,’ Mr Raab said.
‘We need to get that clear from the military planners, they are obviously working on that. Ideally we want to limit the period that they need for their drawdown to maximise the period for the civilian airlift, if you like. But that is something that they will need to provide the details on.’
Mr Raab tried to play down concerns about the Taliban obstructing extractions, saying that although trust was at ‘rock bottom’ there had been ‘constructive’ engagement.
‘They have, so far, in relation to the airport, behaved constructively and engaged constructively more or less.
‘There’s clearly reports and some of the people on the ground – roadblocks or elsewhere – are not following what the political leadership are requiring. But overall, one of the reasons that we have been able to get the numbers out through the evacuation is because we have engaged and they have lived up to some of the things that they have said.
‘We need to then set further tests for them and be very clear about what we are willing to do, if and only if they live up to their assurances.’
Mr Raab also declined to comment on whether British troops would return to Afghanistan in the future.
Meanwhile, a former Royal Marine who claims the Defence Secretary blocked a charter flight to get 200 animals and 69 people working at his Kabul animal shelter out of Afghanistan has been given fresh hope after Ben Wallace gave the green light for the evacuation.
People being taken out of Afghanistan on a Spanish military flight today as the clock runs down on the airlift
Taliban fighters on top of containers near to British troops yesterday. The extremist group issued an edict banning Afghans from leaving the country yesterday
Families fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan board an aircraft at the airport in Kabul yesterday
Paul ‘Pen’ Farthing, the founder of Nowzad, said Boris Johnson had approved a flight he had crowdfunded to evacuate cats and dogs as well as his staff – but that Mr Wallace had blocked the evacuation by refusing to sign air signs needed for it to land at Kabul airport.
Yesterday the Defence Secretary insisted that the major problem with evacuations from the Afghan capital has been getting British nationals past Taliban checkpoints surrounding Hamid Karzai International Airport after Kabul fell to the jihadists earlier this month.
But a Sky News video of a Vauxhall hatchback entering a military cargo jet prompted a counter-blast from animal rights activists including the comedian Ricky Gervais and actor Peter Egan, who accused the Ministry of Defence of caring more about a car than ‘sentient animals’.
Mr Wallace has now announced in a series of tweets that if Mr Farthing arrived at the airport with his staff and animals, officials would allow them to leave on the chartered aircraft.
Britain is working ‘full speed’ to rescue 4,000 Britons and Afghan allies still stuck in Kabul over the next 36 hours after Joe Biden sparked fury by swatting away demands from Boris Johnson and other G7 leaders to extend the August 31 withdrawal deadline.
‘Now that Pen Farthing’s staff have been cleared to come forward under LOTR I have authorised MOD to facilitate their processing alongside all other eligible personnel at (Kabul airport). At that stage, if he arrives with his animals we will seek a slot for his plane,’ Mr Wallace tweeted.
‘If he does not have his animals with him he and his staff can board an RAF flight. I have been consistent all along, ensuring those most at risk are processed first and that the limiting factor has been flow THROUGH to airside NOT airplane capacity.’