‘It’s Heartbreaking’: Listen to an Afghan Woman’s Account of the Taliban Takeover

the Taliban patrol Kabul

“It’s chaos,” she told us, while confined to her home.

“To be honest, I’ve cried so much in the past few days that right now, my tears have dried completely,” Saida, a woman working in Afghanistan told us this week in a phone interview. “I can’t even shed a tear. My heart is bleeding.”

Since the Taliban seized back control of the Afghan government, Saida says she and other working women in the country have felt crushing sadness, fear, and anxiety that the worlds they’ve built for themselves in the years since the insurgents were driven from power will be obliterated. 

Saida said she’s tried to isolate herself at home and won’t even look out the window, out of fear. But she can still hear the explosions and gunshots ringing throughout the days and nights since Kabul collapsed. Videos from her friends and family, showing the Taliban outside their homes, keep streaming in. 

She’s now terrified by the prospect of Taliban agents coming into her home, and potentially questioning her: “It freaks me out,” Saida said. “I don’t know their intentions.”

She, like scores of other Afghans, is wary of the Taliban’s promises to respect women’s rights and is skeptical that they’ve reformed. Under their previous rule, women were confined to their homes, television and music was banned, and public executions were held. 

“There’s no guarantee,” Saida said of the alleged reform. “How would I be able to trust it?” Terrifyingly, Saida also that said most of her friends and colleagues have not been able to flee the country. 

“Most of the borders are closed, nobody is issuing them visas, and the flights are extremely expensive. People are running everywhere just to find a safe haven for themselves or find a shelter or something,” she said. 

Afghans are flocking to the Kabul airport. “It’s chaos,” said Saida. “Thousands of people are running behind one aircraft to be able to get inside it, just so they will be able to run away from this situation.” Saida’s heard through friends that people have been trampled by the crowds and died. The crowds have been teargassed, but endure even that for a chance to escape. 

“The people are becoming like rocks,” she told us. “It didn’t even affect them.”

The prevailing feeling on the ground is of “anger and disappointment,” Saida said — the feeling that years of progress have so rapidly been undone. 

“We’re back to square one,” she said. “It’s going to be a lot of fights. All the development which happened and the improvement which happened in the city, everywhere…it’s going to get ruined. And again we have to start from scratch.” 

For Saida, the despair has felt so overwhelming that she feels unable to will herself to care about the country’s path forward: “I don’t even give a damn,” she said.