Rights activist on leaving Afghanistan: ‘I felt like a bird flying away, but her nest remains’

Rights activist Zarmina Kakar, leaving Afghanistan. (Credit: Zarmina Kakar)

For the last 20 years, Afghan women activists have been the front-runners of justice for other women in the country. Women leaders have been forging a future where gender equality wouldn't be just a dream. But now these heroines have either been displaced to every corner of the world or are hiding in the homeland out of fear.

“I feel like a bird who has spent all the time to build her nest, but then suddenly watches others destroy her den, but she can do nothing,” said Zarmina Kakar, a 26-year-old human rights activist, living in London since 25 August.

It was early morning when Kakar along with her small brother were on their way to her aunt’s home by taxi. Radio Azadi had been reporting on the forward movement of the Taliban towards Kabul, she saw people running and heard gunshots on the street. In just a few hours, everything changed for Kakar and all her dreams were dashed. She took a short video from the painful moment and posted it on Instagram.

“When I heard that the Taliban were approaching Kabul, I decided to go to my aunt's house to hide. I was very upset and tears were flowing from my eyes because I could not accept that my homeland was being taken over by the Taliban.”

Kakar is former spokeswoman of the Electoral Complaints Commission and worked as a deputy of a political party. She is a well-known figure in the field of civil activism and the defense of human rights in Afghanistan.

In a conservative and traditional society like Afghanistan, it is not easy for a woman to appear in public and raise her voice against oppression, social inequality and women rights but despite all the obstacles, Kakar has been taking steps bravely. She has organised and attended many marches and demonstrations on promoting human rights.

“Along with demonstrations and marches, we also held some protest acts against human rights violations.” She added: “For example, in 2018, when the security situation in Ghazni province was very bad, the dead bodies had fallen on the roads. My other friends and I covered ourselves with a shroud and sat on a road in Kabul to protest about the security situation in Ghazni province.”

Kakar is well known in the national and international media and, with 79,000 instagram followers, is also an influencer on social media. She has participated in many interviews and TV discussions.

Kakar is also co-founder of the Afghan National Consensus Foundation, which helps displaced families in Kabul as well as in the treatment of drug addicts.

As a high profile figure in the media who had frequently spoken out against the Taliban’s politics and ideology, Kakar knew that she couldn’t stay in Afghanistan under their rule.

“I used to be threatened by the Taliban several times, and I was repeatedly informed by the Afghan intelligence force that my name is on the list of those who were targeted by the Taliban.”

After the Taliban took over Kabul, a woman from Costa Rica contacted Kakar on Instagram and offered to help her leave the country. This Costa Rican lady had an American contact in Kabul who helped her to get out of Kabul.

“I left, but I'm worried about all the young generation who grew up in democracy, with a lot of effort, reached the standards of modern life, but now they have to live under the Taliban regime without any freedom,” she added.

Adjusting to her new life in London as an immigrant, away from her home and her family, has been difficult.

“Sometimes I feel inferior but I have to start from zero and move on. My struggle will always be ongoing. Not only me, all Afghan women must fight against Taliban's rules and not let them wipe out 20 years of achievements.”