Two years ago, my father passed away, and our lives changed drastically. While he was alive, he managed our expenses well, and we never experienced any financial difficulties. However, after his death, our economic situation worsened considerably. Thanks to the help of my mother and brother, I managed to complete my studies at school and take the Kankor exam.
It was not an easy journey, though. I had to endure many hardships, staying up late at night to study and going hungry for days. At times, I even lacked proper clothing. My goal was to study properly and succeed in the Kankor exam. But then the Taliban came to power, and things became even more difficult for women and girls like me. Our rights were stripped away, and our future prospects were uncertain. Nonetheless, my entire focus and determination were on succeeding in the entrance exam and securing a place at the university.
My dream was to become an educated and successful person, to serve my family, myself, and my community. Passing the Kankor exam was the first step towards achieving that dream. I can still vividly recall my joy and relief when I found out that I had been accepted into Balkh University’s Faculty of Psychology. I was crying tears of joy. It was a moment of triumph that made all my efforts worthwhile. I shared the good news with my mother, who became just as happy as I was and embraced me tightly. My siblings also congratulated me, and we all felt a glimmer of hope for a better future.
My friends informed me that the university was scheduled to start on March 6 and I needed to register soon. It was Yalda Night (21 December, the longest night of the year). The day before, I had purchased new supplies, including a gown, shoes, a handbag, and books from the market. I had bought my university supplies two and a half months prior, in anticipation of using them when the university opened. We started joyfully celebrating the Yalda night by telling stories and sharing laughter.
After dinner, I went online. I saw that many people were sharing their joy and excitement about Yalda night, the longest night of the year, and posting about it with their friends and family. It was then that I stumbled upon the news that shook me to the core. A media outlet had reported that the Taliban had announced that “public and private schools and universities throughout the country will remain closed to girls until further notice.”
As I read the news, I felt a sense of suffocation and paralysis overcome me. I didn’t know what to do. Without moving, tears began to stream down my face as I repeated to myself, “What will happen to my dreams? What will happen to our future? What are they doing with our future?” My mother was woken up by my sobbing and came to ask what had happened. I told her the devastating news, and she too was upset like me.
That night became the most direful and the worst night of my life, and I understood the true meaning of the longest night of the year that night. I couldn’t sleep all night because of anger and confusion. The night was so long for me that it didn’t seem like dawn would ever come. But despite my despair, I held onto hope at the beginning and convinced myself that universities would start again in March like in previous years. However, as time went by, March came and went, but the universities remained closed to girls. Now, my brother goes to school, but I can’t go to university!
In mid-March, our neighbor come to propose to me and suggested that I marry his brother. Despite my mother’s love for me and her desire for me to continue my studies, she urged me to accept the proposal. I understood her reasoning. After my father’s death, my mother supported our family of seven by cleaning, weaving, tailoring, and sometimes selling household items. Although my 15-year-old brother occasionally worked and helped her with expenses, our financial situation was dire. We struggled to put bread on the table, with my mother being the sole breadwinner.
“My daughter, I too wanted you to continue your studies, but as you know, girls are not allowed to pursue education,” my mother told me. “Until this brutal group is eradicated, I am uncertain whether girls will have the right to pursue an education again. In light of this, I urge you to accept this proposal. Marrying into a respected family will bring me peace of mind and will also provide you with a better life. You have no other options, my daughter. You must accept this proposal.”
Even though my family was kind to me, they did not support my education during these challenging times. They wanted me to get married. With no other options, I had to comply with my mother’s wishes and accept the proposal.
Last week, we got engaged. My future husband is illiterate and owns a bakery. While I have pursued an education, he has not. Our worlds are vastly different. I have no choice but to adapt to him, though I do not know what my future holds with him.