9.11 voices

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 September, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 September, 2006, 12:00am

ANISA SULAIMANKHEL is a 35-year-old physics teacher at a girls' school in Kabul. Fluent in Russian and with an MA in economics, she was director-general in the labour ministry when the Taleban seized power in 1996 and sacked all women. Under the Taleban, her family ran an illegal school for girls and young boys

The students in our home school had been gone a short while ago when I switched on the radio and heard the news that the World Trade Centre in New York had been attacked.

We immediately sensed this could be a turning point.

We felt excited, even happy. I quickly switched on the TV and tuned to a Russian satellite channel. Oh yes, even though the Taleban had outlawed many things, we managed to keep a radio and a TV! Those images are deeply etched on my mind - the two planes crashing into the buildings, the towers collapsing. We watched amazed for hours, wondering what sort of world would emerge.

My first thought was: now the United States will surely attack Afghanistan. We knew that was the only way the Taleban could be ousted.

What happened on 9/11 was very bad for the US, but as far as Afghanistan is concerned it was a good thing. We were liberated because of 9/11. We will be eternally grateful to the US for giving us our freedom.

The bombing of Kabul by US planes was a strange experience. We were so scared but at the same time happy. People had lost their homes in the bombing, people were killed, there was mourning - yet there was a suppressed kind of jubilation. At last someone had come to liberate us from the Taleban.

After the Taleban was chased out of Kabul in November that year, I went to my office in the labour ministry and found it completely bare except for some mattresses on the floor - everything was gone.

It was very difficult for us initially, but we took courage and hold on to the belief that we can reconstruct our lives, our country. And we've shown we can do it. Still, until we can fully stand on our own feet, and until the terrorists are completely defeated, American and Nato forces should remain in Afghanistan.

The Taleban is trying to make a comeback. It is attacking schools, killing teachers, seeking to destroy Afghanistan again. I know that after what they went through, Afghan women are no longer afraid and will never let the Taleban control our lives again.

Afghans today face so many problems. The condition of teachers, for instance, is very poor - a majority are in great hardship. The monthly salary is pitiful - just US$50. I would say about 80 per cent of the teachers cannot run their homes on their salaries. Many also desperately need training.

Then there are other problems in schools - not enough rooms, not enough books, hardly any equipment in the science labs, and often no power. The government should at least raise salaries.

I can't say if President Hamid Karzai is doing a good job or not, but you do hear criticism. But I feel that low salaries are a cause of a lot of corruption and inefficiency.

One thing is for sure - we were liberated nearly five years ago, and we're not going to give up working to develop Afghanistan. If not tomorrow, then one day we will do it.