After shutting down girls’ schools, banning girls from studying at universities, and closing girls’ dormitories, the Taliban are now bothering girls who live in rented houses.
Maryam and Somayya are the students who were banned from going to the university based on the order issued by the Taliban, the terrorist group. Soon after, they were also banned from going to private educational centers. They turned to online education in order to be able to fight against the misogynistic orders of the Taliban.
Until December 25, 2022, Maryam and Somayya, along with fifty other girls, were living in a private girls’ dormitory in West Kabul. On December 25, the Taliban attacked the dormitory without prior notice and forced them to leave the dormitory.
They had to go to and stay at their friends’ houses for a while. “It was nine o’clock in the morning when were heard hullabaloos from the first floor and the girls came up to the second floor where we were,” Somayya reminded the day they were forced to leave the dormitory. “A moment later, three Talibs entered our room and threw all our belongings into the hallway, ordering us to leave the dormitory until noon.”
Maryam and Somayya stayed at their friends’ houses for a few days and then they rented a house.
“Most of the girls [who were forced to leave the dormitory] had no place to go and pass a few nights (until renting a house),” said Maryam to Nimrokh. “Four of them went with us at night and then they had no other option but to go to their homes in the provinces.”
Farhad (pseudonym), the manager of the dormitory where Maryam and Somayya were living, told Nimrokh: “When Kabul fell [to the Taliban], we shut down the dormitory for a while, but we reopened it due to the high demand from the girls. We could keep it open for several months by giving money to the Taliban. On December 25, the Taliban soldiers entered the dormitory without prior notice and broke some of our pieces of furniture, saying we were no longer allowed to operate.”
Now, due to the restrictions imposed by the Taliban, most of the girls’ dormitories have been shut down or turned into men’s dormitories.
Mirwais (pseudonym) has been in charge of a girls’ dormitory for six years in the third district of Kabul City. After the Taliban takeover and banning girls from going to universities and schools, the dormitory has now turned into a boys’ dormitory.
“I had spent a lot of money to set up this dormitory,” said Mirwais to Nimrokh. “I had provided good facilities for the female students and employees. Unfortunately, after the Taliban came to power and the universities shut down, I was not even able to pay the rent for the building. That’s why I had to turn it into a men’s dormitory, which is very difficult to manage. Two soldiers of the Taliban have locked two rooms in the dormitory for themselves. They sometimes come to the dormitory but have not yet paid a single Afghani for rent”.
After leaving the dormitory and renting a house, Somayya and Maryam are still bothered by the Taliban’s men.
On January 27, 2023, the Taliban’s men had gone to their rented house and told them they were not allowed to live in a rented house without a legal mahram.
“When we were forced to leave the dormitory, we rented one floor of a house with a number of other girls,” said Maryam, adding: “We thought that the Taliban were only against our education and clothing, but now we’ve come to understand that they don’t even allow us to live in a house without a man accompanying us.”
According to Maryam, the Taliban have also warned the owner of their house that he had to stop renting his house to the girls and women without a “mahram/male companion”.
Maryam says that the Taliban get information about female students and their rented houses from the bakeries. “When the Taliban came to our rented house,” she said, “I introduced the downstairs neighbor as my brother, but one of the Taliban’s men told that they had asked the bakery about how many of us were living alone there without a mahram.”
“During the Republic government, we would not rent our house to the single boys,” said Mohammad Zaman (pseudonym), the owner of the house that Maryam and her friends have rented, explaining “because the boys didn’t use to respect the urban culture and this caused the neighbors to complain. But the girls were involved in their own business and wouldn’t disturb others. After the Taliban came to power and imposed restrictions on women, we are also afraid of being punished by the Taliban for renting houses to female students. So, we will not rent our house unless we know the girls.”
Fatima Rahmani, who had gone to Ghazni province after the closure of private dormitories, has returned to Kabul to pursue TOEFL preparation online courses.
“I was going to the TOEFL exam preparation course when the private dormitories were closed, then I went to my uncle’s house,” she says, “then they [the Taliban] closed the courses too, so I had to go to my birth province. After a while, when I returned to Kabul and looked for a rented room in the real estate agencies, they told me that they were not allowed to rent a house for the girls without a mahram.”
With great effort and with the guarantee of a friend of her father, Fatima has managed to rent a room in the neighborhood of another family.
Even though the Taliban have not yet issued any specific order to the real estate agencies regarding how women can rent houses, its members occasionally warn these agencies about renting houses to single women.
“The Taliban members occasionally come to the agency and check the contracts,” said Mohammad Salem (pseudonym), a real estate agency manager in the Pul-e-Sokhta area, to Nimrokh, adding “the Taliban have not issued any official order yet, but they often tell us, if they found out that we have rented houses for women and girls without a mahram, our work permit would be revoked.”