Ghafari was finally able to go to work in November 2019, almost a year after her appointment, but soon, as she tells DailyExpertNews, she would have to endure constant harassment, intimidation and regular protests: crowds of angry men demonstrating outside her office, holding sticks and throw stones.
She remembers entering her office and everyone else walking out, as well as the occasions when she arrived at her office to a locked door, where she had to break the lock to get in.
But the young Afghan official kept showing up and was mayor for two and a half years.
“The more they ignored me, the stronger I became; the more they rejected me, the stronger I became; the more I saw how [they ridiculed] me for my gender, the stronger I became,” she says.
“I was like, ‘I’m going to show you people because whatever I have in my head, it’s just like you'”.
And Ghafari would succeed in changing the attitude of some people. She says one of her fiercest critics told her years later that she had proved him wrong when he told her she was nothing more than a little girl.
“I was able to show the strength and ability of women and prove that we can do anything. I’ve shown people that no matter how many times I’m still attacked, I’ll still be here because I think what I’m doing is right,” she says.
But this was all before America withdrew its troops from Afghanistan last year and before the Taliban took control of the country. Initially, Ghafari had wanted to stay, but the situation on the ground kept getting worse, she says. Her father was murdered in 2020 and she believed her own life was also at stake.
“I have no illusions about the Taliban, but I am also aware that they will now be in power in Afghanistan for years to come. The media has mainly focused on the Taliban and how they will rule, but I am interested in the people and I believe we should build, not break, the bridge between the people of Afghanistan and the world,” she says.
In February, Ghafari made his first return to Kabul and said he was shocked to see how quickly conditions there and in nearby provinces had deteriorated.
“We have always had shocking poverty in Afghanistan, but now even those who belonged to the middle class struggle to survive. State employees have not received a salary for months. As I drove through Kabul I saw people standing by the side of the road and their selling household belongings,” she says.
She hopes to expand to other parts of the country in the coming months.
“I urge you to do everything possible to get our people out of this predicament and to raise your voice in support of humanity. The solution is not for everyone to just sit and send statements. We have action needed at least after seven months of darkness for the men and women of my country,” she said in her acceptance speech at the UN.
“My country has been at war for 40 years. Achieving peace in a country that has been at war for decades is never easy. It often involves making unsavory choices and talking to people you find abhorrent. And yet it can be no different. is how peace was achieved in Northern Ireland and in Yugoslavia, and I believe this is the only way it can be achieved in Afghanistan,” she continued.
In addition to prioritizing human and women’s rights in international talks with the Taliban, she asked world leaders not to close their doors to Afghans seeking safe shelter. Referring to the welcome many European countries offer to those fleeing the war in Ukraine, Ghafari added: “Our blood is no different in color from Ukrainians”.
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