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I stepped off the plane in Kabul in early 2023, to an exodus of international NGOs. A new edict had just been passed where women were no longer permitted to work for any international NGOs resulting in life saving organisations abandoning their duties as a stance against the de facto government. A couple of months beforehand, it was decreed that girls were forbidden to attend school after the age of 12. They have also been forbidden to complete or attend universities whilst the de facto government continued to work on a safe Islamic environment for the education of girls after almost 18 months in power. At about the same time, the Taliban precluded women from visiting public parks.

The existence of women were quickly evaporating from the outside world, cordoned off to the four walls inside their homes. Years of advancement in the inclusion and education of women in Afghan society threatens to come to an end, hurling the country back to darker days.

Most of the women I’ve chatted to in Kabul have shared their hopes that the Taliban will vanish or be replaced by yet another super power. That all seemed unlikely. "If they don’t we will get used to them". Those who were more pragmatic considered the lives of the Talibs themselves - the countless wars, the lack of education and conservative culture from which they've stemmed from, and knowing little else but to subject the people to the same fate, or worse.

I met Fatima in an Americanised cafe in Kabul. She was in her early twenties, brave, resolute. I stole a glance across the tables initially. Her veil loosely framed her face, falling off a few times. She stole glances back. She’s the rebel girl I needed to meet. In fact she was a real life rebel girl, part of the resistance.

“We are fighters. We are educated. We know our rights. They can’t stop us from living!" She calmly shared her views, strength in her eyes. She was part of the protest against the Taliban in the beginning but stopped when others around her were arrested.

Her fighting words strong, yet diminished when reality sunk in as we spoke.