Foreword from the editor: The 2021 Taliban insurgency saw the collapse of the Afghan government following the withdrawal of US troops and western military presence in the country. Beginning on 1st May 2021, over the course of 3 months, the Taliban launched a number of offensives, gaining control over several districts. On 15th August, the Taliban took control over the Afghan capital of Kabul with President Ashraf Ghani fleeing the country. The Taliban reinstated of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan along with its legacy of a poor human rights record particularly towards women. The previous Taliban regime (1996-2001) saw the introduction of a variety of hardline policies towards women including but not limited to a prohibition on female education and mandatory dress codes. At present, the new regime has excluded girls from returning to secondary education until further notice, leaving the fate of women and their right to an education uncertain. The author of this letter details her own experience after fleeing from the previous Taliban regime and her sentiments following their return to power.
It has been four months since the rapid fall of Afghanistan into the vicious hands of the Taliban. A fall that has led to hundreds of deaths, forced thousands to attempt to leave, and left the future of millions in a sphere of uncertainty. Afghanistan is now teetering at the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe with the WFP predicting around 8.7 million people will face emergency levels of hunger in the coming winter.
I still find it difficult to think about what has happened in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, such trauma is not new for many of my generation.
I was only two when my family fled from Afghanistan to Pakistan in 1994 amid the civil war. I remember little except snapshots of our journey through the mountainous border. As a child, I could not understand what was happening but sensed something was wrong.
My mother’s tales of Afghanistan’s golden days were my first sources of familiarity with the country we left behind. In the faint echo of these stories, we adjusted to our new reality: one of severe poverty.
My siblings and I went to refugee schools and lived in some of Pakistan’s most deprived areas. Nevertheless, we hoped and dreamed of the day we could return home.
In 2002, this long-awaited day arrived. We returned to Afghanistan after the first Taliban regime collapsed, finding scores of opportunities for a better future as the ban on females working and going to school was lifted.
Thanks to this new climate of freedom, I went from being a refugee girl attending school in a tent to a woman who graduated from Cambridge University with a master’s degree.
Now that history has repeated itself, the trauma for me is double. What happened to me as a child is happening again, only this time it is my son’s generation that risks inheriting a terrible future.
Growing up in a family where education was the driver of social mobility, I find it intolerable to see girls in my family and throughout the country once again incarcerated at home, deprived of their right to go to school.
It has been more than four months since the Taliban banned girls’ secondary education. As each day passes without education for girls, the irreversible damage gets deeper. There is no time to waste. According to the World Bank estimates, countries can lose US$15 trillion to $30 trillion in lifetime productivity and earnings due to girl’s limited access to education. 
It took 20 years of sacrifice, sweat and money to bring women back into the public realm in Afghanistan. To lose it all again to the Taliban would doom the country to darkness.
The international community holds a moral responsibility to take a stand for the women and girls of Afghanistan. People around the world can show their support by writing to MPs and the government. Those who have any platform (including social media) should not hesitate to take a stand against the Taliban’s ban on girls’ secondary education.
History has shown that human suffering and tragedies can ripple out across the globe. In fact, according to the UK’s MI5, the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has already boosted morale of terrorist groups around the world.
Politicians have the chance to compensate for their abandonment of Afghanistan by pressuring the Taliban to lift the ban on girls’ education as soon as possible. World leaders cannot remain passive and watch a terrorist group loot Afghanistan and its intellectual capital. The wounds of the previous Taliban regime are still fresh. Do not let the pain and struggles of the people of Afghanistan be in vain. Do not let history repeat itself. For one child rid of the right to an education, is a loss for all humankind.