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Hard to believe I am free again, says Afghan engineer

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Mar 29 (UNI) As Najla Afzali set her foot on the Indian soil, it was a dream come true for the civil engineer from Afghanistan, who had to burn her university books for the fear of Taliban officials.

''I had never thought that a day will come when I will be allowed to go abroad, represent my country and pursue my profession again,'' said Ms Afzali who had been invited by the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation to read her paper on 'Sanitation and the Role of Women' here.

Life was real hell for the Afghan women during the Taliban period and a majority of them became victims of depression because of the extreme suppression they had to suffer and also prolonged civil war, she told UNI.

She said she just does not want to be reminded of the scene when her university books were set ablaze. ''We simply could not do otherwise. We had to chose between complying with Taliban dictats or death. So we had to set aflame our own books we loved and cherished,'' she said.

Afghan women were leading a pretty normal and free life before Taliban regime. Though some sections of the society still observed purdah system, there was no bar on women getting education and taking up jobs, she said.

''But everything changed with the arrival of Taliban and my unfortunate country was divested of all that was beautiful and sensible,'' she said with tears in her eyes.

After women were barred from going to schools and colleges and taking up jobs, I started teaching physics and chemistry to girls.

''But that too we had to do secretly. Taliban were totally against secular education. Everytime there was a knock on the door, we would shudder with fear. I had asked my students to tell Taliban officials that they were being taught only Qur'an if they happen to come to my house and questioned them about the subjects being taught,''.

''We would brood over our plight wondering whether we would one day die living like that. For seven years I sat at home, and now when I am here reading my paper at this workshop in your country, I find it really hard to believe,'' she said.

When asked about the support for Taliban in her society, she said,'' I have travelled very little outside Kabul, and do not know my country .... not good enough to tell about their genesis. But I am sure of one thing. Taliban are not real Afghan people. I do not know where they have come from. They are bloody people.'' MORE UNI NAZ CS RAI1016

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