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Afghan refugee worries about the future of women in Afghanistan

Posted at 2:54 PM, Aug 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-27 17:22:24-04

MAGIC VALLEY — Yasmin Aguilar held back tears while talking about watching videos of Afghans desperately trying to flee the country after the Taliban takeover.

She says the videos made her think of her childhood and what the future holds for women.

“It's a sense of desperation, and I’m like God, please help these people because it’s not easy. If you don’t experience that situation, people don’t know what it means when you are at risk," Aguilar said.

Although women began to gain some rights like getting an education and holding jobs they weren't able to before, Aguilar says with the Taliban takeover she fears those rights may begin to diminish.

"People are frustrated and scared and furious because now Taliban announced all women can go work and women can still go to school but the Islamic way and I don't know what's the Islamic way," Aguilar said.

One College of Southern Idaho professor says it could be years before women begin to gain certain rights again.

"Although the Taliban is taking this new tone of we want to do things within these values, they still believe women should be silent. They should not be seen, and they are seen as sexual beings. What I've heard and what I've read is that women believe that this is going to push them back about 200 years, so that's unfortunate," Justin Vipperman, Historian at the College of Southern Idaho, said.

Women's rights in Afghanistan have gone through ups and downs. Aguilar says she has seen women gain rights but also lose some.

Aguilar was raised in Kabul where she says growing up, life was normal, and women had a lot of rights.

“We had like a western life when I was a child. You know, like, all others, went to school, got a good education. We didn’t have any issue with rights. Nobody told us we had to cover up or not cover up, or go to school or not go to school, so people were happy," Aguilar said.

It wasn't until 1992 when she says things changed, forcing her and her family to flee to Pakistan.

“But 1992, when mujahid and the seven group extremist Muslims entered Afghanistan. We all had to cover we were forced to cover, and what you see right now, exactly I saw it in 1992," Aguilar said.

During that time, she said she saw women's rights begin to diminish.

“We were not allowed to go to work. As a woman, you were not allowed to go to school, and suddenly life was a disaster everywhere. Suicide bombing, shooting problems, so we fleed to Pakistan for our safety," Aguilar said.

Seeing how women did not have many rights, Aguilar wanted to do something to help.

After fleeing to Pakistan, Aguilar began working with Mercy Corps. She says during that time she would travel back to Afghanistan to help educate women and children on their sexual health and sexual abuse.

“And it went well, but of course there were oppositions about why am I doing that: empowering women and children. I’m making them non-Muslim by teaching them about their health. And then I was kidnapped in 1998 going to a refugee camp," Aguilar said.

Even after the kidnapping, Aguilar still continued her efforts. But after being attacked, she decided to stop for her safety.

Instead, Aguilar sought refuge in the United States and moved to Idaho in 2000. She now works for the Agency for New Americans, where she helps other refugees through the resettling process.

“I enjoy what I do. When I reunite family members especially, and my job at the agency is immigration. I help refugees or others with their green card and citizenship application, travel documents, and family reunification," Aguilar said.

Although she has lived in Idaho for the past 21 years, she says she is always thinking about people in her home country and people in other countries going through hardships. But she especially thinks about her family that still lives in Kabul.

“I feel more Idahoan, but I never forget my people and the country I was born in and made me who I am today," Aguilar said.