I went to Mazar-e-Sharif to attend the Kankor Exam preparation courses. As a schoolgirl, I dreamed of studying medicine to become a doctor. It was early spring when I started attending preparation courses with full enthusiasm. Everything was going on well and I used to see myself as one step closer to my lofty goals.
There were 195 students in one class, 80% of which were female students. Our common goal was to get high grades in the Kankor Exam and to get into the universities. After a while, the republican government fell and the Taliban seized the power. For a while, the educational centers were forced to remain completely closed throughout Afghanistan.
About a month later, a small number of preparation courses were reopened. I went to the class. There were ten or twelve girls left in a large-populated class where the majority were girls. Every day we went to class with the fear of when the Taliban would come and expel us from the classroom.
Every day, we used to hear the news of threats, beatings, disappearances, and killings of female students and employees. Some of our experienced teachers had left the country. A number of my classmates were forced to husband or were not allowed to come to the course.
I had become friends with seven girls in my class. All of us used to gather in one place and discuss the subjects. We were two Zahras, Fatima, Marzia, Kobra, Sohaila, Aasia, and Noorjan; We had promised each other that we would work so hard that among 195 classmates, we eight people would get number one to eight.
Three years ago, Zahra returned from Pakistan to study in her own country. Her brother was a police officer in the republican government. For this reason, the Taliban threatened her brother several times. Her parents had gone to Samangan with their little son, and Zahra, along with her brother and two sisters, was constantly changing their houses in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif.
One night, the Taliban attacked Zahra’s house. They killed Zahra and her brother and took her two sisters with them. Zahra’s and her brother’s bodies remained in the house for several days, and the bodies of her two sisters, Fatima and Sharifa, were found in Dasht-e-Shadian (A large plain near the city of Mazar-e-Sharif).
Zahra, who wanted to study journalism and become a photojournalist, was squashed with her dreams by the Taliban. After that, Zahra’s seat in the car was always unoccupied, Zahra’s chair in the class was unoccupied, and Zahra’s name was no longer on the list of the top students in the class.
Sohaila and Kobra left the course after Zahra was killed. A few days later, I went to Sohaila’s home. The happy and heartsome Sohaila had become a depressed girl. As soon as I asked her why she wouldn’t come to the class, she threw herself into my arms and responded with a lump in her throat: “My father doesn’t allow me, Zahra.”
“There is a rumor here and there,” Sohaila told me “that the Taliban have ordered girls over 12 years old to get married, if not, they will marry them to their own men. No matter how much I beg my father to let me continue my studies, he says that I should marry with pride and a good name. Zahra, you tell my father not to force me to marry, I don’t want to get married.”
Sohaila’s father always used to tell me that he loved me as his daughter. That’s why I thought that he might not reject my request. I asked him to let Sohaila go to the course to prepare for the Kankor Exam. He cut me off, saying, “Zahra, you go to the course, my daughter will no longer study. I don’t want her to study. It’s enough for her.” When I wanted to continue, he said: “Don’t insist, go home… I don’t want Sohaila to study anymore.”
A week later, Sohaila called me and said that she had been engaged. Wanting to become a doctor, Sohaila is now a housewife.
Kobra was another member of our group. Her father’s economic situation was not good. He owed someone 500,000 afghanis (about $5,500). The man had come to Kabra’s father’s house several times with the Taliban soldiers to get his money. The Taliban soldiers had beaten her father, but he could not find money to pay his debt. Kobra had to marry the man’s son to protect her parents. Some time ago, Kobra’s husband remarried and she said that she was going to commit suicide.
All these unpleasant events blocked my way and I could not continue. Gender issues became more severe than ever and the space for women became more and more limited. I returned to Daikandi. After waiting for a long time, the time for taking Kaknor Exam came. I went to the provincial capital (Nili City) to take the exam. Despite all the difficulties and deprivations, I expected to be accepted in medicine and decided to choose the universities in Kabul, Balkh, and Herat provinces.
On September 6, 2022, at 3:30 p.m., we sat on the exam chairs. The question papers were distributed. I hoped I would answer all the questions and get into medical school.
After a few minutes, the answer sheets and list of faculties were distributed. We noticed that the list of faculties was very short. We asked the examiners about the reason. They said that we were not allowed to choose faculties and fields other than what was listed on the paper. Also, according to the list, we were allowed to choose universities only in four provinces: Parwan, Panjshir, Ghor, and Bamyan.
We all stood up, saying we would not want to take the exam under those conditions. “Get out,” One of the examiners shouted jeeringly, “It’s getting dark. We can’t wait because of you. We are going to go and sleep. Get out.” I didn’t know what to do. “Even if I don’t take the exam, they won’t be upset,” I told myself.
I sat down on the chair. A number of girls left the exam salon. Many were crying and two or three of them swooned. The nurses came and took them away. Some, whose families were in Herat or Kabul, were shocked and didn’t know what to do; Their families were not allowing them to go to the universities in other provinces.
The examiners tore the papers of those who had said something out of anger to them and to the guards and threw them out of the salon. We were filling in the answer sheets when it was getting dark. No matter how much we begged, they did not turn on the generators.
While filling in the answer sheets, I was not vigilant. I was scared. My hands and feet were shaking. I came to realize that my answer sheet was too dirty. When I asked for a new sheet, they refused to give it to me. They also reduced the allotted time for the exam, that’s why I was confused and made a mistake in choosing the faculties and fields.
Nothing went on as I thought and I wanted and as a result, I could not get into the field I loved. Despite all these limitations and reproaches, I will never give up. I have promised myself to become a doctor. I still hope that one day, we will realize our dreams.