Refugee from Taliban affords digital excursions of her homeland

MILAN: Compelled to flee by the Taliban, Fatima Haidari now affords digital excursions of Afghanistan from her new residence in Italy – with the proceeds funding secret English courses for ladies there.

From her scholar flatshare in Milan, Haidari leads cyber-tourists across the western Afghan metropolis of Herat, utilizing Zoom to indicate them the grand mosque with its glazed tiles, the citadel and the bustling bazaar.

The 24-year-old labored as a tour information in Herat earlier than fleeing when the Taliban took energy in August 2021, and is now learning worldwide politics at Milan’s Bocconi college.

However she stays enthusiastic about displaying outsiders the great thing about her nation, even when few vacationers at the moment dare go to.

“Whenever you hear about Afghanistan, you consider battle, terror and bombs,” Haidari informed AFP within the little kitchen she shares with 4 different college students.

“I need to present the world the great thing about the nation, its tradition and its historical past.”

Organised via British tour operator Untamed Borders, the occasions draw folks from Britain to Australia, Germany and India.

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A 3rd of the cash goes in the direction of secret English courses for younger ladies again in Afghanistan.

The Taliban have imposed harsh restrictions on ladies since returning to energy, together with closing secondary faculties and universities for women and girls.

Haidari herself confronted insults after changing into the primary feminine vacationer information in Afghanistan.

Native non secular leaders accused her of “doing the satan’s work”, notably when accompanying males, whereas boys threw stones at her on the street.

‘The ability of our pens’

Haidari is enthusiastic about training, after battling her entire life for entry to books.

Rising up within the mountains within the central area of Ghor, the youngest of seven youngsters, her dad and mom made her take care of the sheep.

“I might take the sheep out to graze by the river the place the boys had faculty and secretly hearken to their classes,” she recalled.

“As I didn’t have a pen, I might write within the sand or in clay.”

When she was 10, her impoverished household moved to Herat, the place they may not afford to ship her to highschool.

For 3 years she labored at evening on home-made objects equivalent to conventional garments, to boost sufficient cash to pay for courses and textual content books.

She managed to steer her dad and mom to permit her to go to school in Herat, the place she started learning journalism in 2019.

“They wished me to change into an ideal housewife. However I didn’t need to observe the identical path as my two sisters and face an organized marriage,” Haidari stated.

‘Buried alive’

Sporting a black headband and leather-based gilet, denims tucked into her boots and her laptop computer in a bag on her again, she appears like every other scholar on campus.

However she by no means forgets the plight of ladies again residence.

“They’re confined to the home, it’s as if they’re locked in a jail or in a grave the place they’re buried alive,” she stated.

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Haidari is a member of Afghanistan’s minority Hazara group, Shia in a majority Sunni nation who’ve been focused by the Islamic State (IS) group.

When the Taliban arrived, she was warned by the native tour operator she labored for that she is likely to be a goal, and fled.

Leaving Afghanistan was traumatic. At Kabul airport, there have been determined scenes as hundreds of individuals tried to get a flight out.

“The Taliban had been hitting the gang with Kalashnikovs, bullets had been whizzing by my ears and a younger lady collapsed useless subsequent to me.

I assumed I used to be in a horror film, but it surely was actual,“ she recalled.

She was unable to get onto flights to the USA and Poland, however received on a airplane to Rome.

She nonetheless desires of returning residence “to arrange my very own journey company and rent ladies as guides”.

However “so long as the Taliban are in Afghanistan, it’s now not my residence,” she stated.