The Afghan war marks its 10th anniversary today. In Queens, N.Y., Afghan women talk about how the country has changed in many ways for the better, but also why they prefer their new lives in the United States.
While a recent survey indicates that Afghan women are feeling safer, the vestiges of the Taliban regime are still strongly visible within the society, says Yalda Atif, 21, an Afghan woman studying international law at Brooklyn Community College.
The Taliban, which ruled most of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, were infamous for their strict laws marginalizing women that deprived them of the rights to work, study or move freely.
Afghanistan’s constitution now stipulates that men and women have equal rights, but many independent agencies say women in the conservative country are still subject to widespread discrimination and oppression.
Atif came to New York on an academic scholarship and lives with her grandmother in Queen, N.Y.
“As a young woman in Afghanistan, when you are done with school and your education, the community will force you to get married, and I didn’t want that,” said Atif.
Sixty-six percent of Afghan women said they feel safer than before the war and 72 percent believe their lives are better, according to a survey released by ActionAid.
However, 90 percent of them are worried of a return of a Taliban-style government.
In Afghanistan a woman who speaks out and seeks help is often seen as bringing shame on her family and that reticence to report abuse persists here.
The Afghan war is widely criticized, including by several Muslim-dominant countries. Pressure for troop withdrawal is rising. But nearly 40 percent of Afghan women think Afghanistan will become a worse place if international troops leave, according to ActionAid’s survey.