Three days after the Islamic movement’s shock seizure of Kabul, there were few women on the streets.
Some women were deleting social media accounts, while others were closing businesses and donning burqas to avoid being identified when outdoors.
“I feel like a prisoner. I daren’t step outside my home,” said one award-winning journalist whose name has been withheld for her safety.
“I don’t know what the Taliban will do to me if they identify me as a female journalist who’s done hundreds of reports exposing their actions against the Afghan people.”
The journalist said she had deleted her social media, removed computer files, destroyed photos and hidden her award.
“The Taliban have said women can go to work wearing the Islamic hijab, but … who knows if they will allow girls and women to study and work? There are no guarantees considering their past record,” she added.
“If I’m forced to stay home, not allowed to work or raise my voice, I will consider myself dead even if they don’t physically kill me.”
Under Taliban rule between 1996 and 2001, girls were barred from school while women could not work and had to cover their faces and be accompanied by a male relative outside their homes.
But in their first press conference since taking Kabul, the Taliban said women would be allowed to work and study “within the framework of Islam”.
However, women contacted by Thomson Reuters Foundation were sceptical, saying the Taliban had also made conciliatory overtures ahead of imposing their harsh regime in the 1990s when they enforced a strict interpretation of Islamic law, that included public flogging and stonings.
In Kabul, business owners have removed pictures of women from beauty salons and tailors’ shops fearing reprisals.
One hairdresser at a major salon said no one had dared return to work.
“At least 24 families were being supported by this single place, and by women and girls. I guess it’s become a tale of the past now. None of the women are ready to go back and work there because of the fear of the Taliban,” she said.