In Kabul, university students should be getting ready for the start of a new term. Instead, many are destroying evidence of their previous lives as the Taliban patrol the streets outside.
For one student – a woman, and a member of the persecuted Hazara minority, which in recent years has faced abductions and killings at the hands of the Taliban – the men outside pose even more risk. Here, she tells the BBC how the dreams she hoped to fulfil have been replaced by fears for her future survival in just a matter of days.
It’s something that I can’t put into words, honestly. Everything, everything that I dreamed of, everything that I ever worked for. My dignity, my pride, even my existence as a girl, my life – they are all in danger. Who knows how long it would take them to come and search house-by-house and take girls – probably rape them. I may have to kill myself when they come to my home. I’ve been talking to my friends, this is what all of us, all of us, are planning to do. Death is better than being taken by them.
We are all scared and we are scared to our bones.
Two months ago my only focus was on my degree. I was planning how to study for the fall semester, what to do, what not to do, making schedules, trying to make everything correct.
Various people were scared as the Taliban were taking provinces, but I and others never thought they would take Kabul.
My life was normal until they took Mazar-i-Sharif (a large city north-west of Kabul, that was an anti-Taliban bastion). That day I realised we were finished. Then they got to Kabul. There was some gunfire in the city and we heard that the Taliban were in every neighbourhood.
Then, nothing was normal.
All of my family stayed home. The shops were closed, prices were going higher by the hour, and the exchange rate was changing quickly.
I burnt all of my university papers and documents. I burnt all my notes of achievements and certificates. I did it on our balcony. I have a lot of books, lovely books, that I was reading. I have hidden them all.
I deactivated my social media accounts. I was told it was too dangerous to have posts on social media or even to be on social media anymore. Apparently the Taliban check posts and find us through them.
Facebook was the main problem because I was active there. I had old posts saying that the Taliban couldn’t do anything, that I will stand up to them, that they cannot stop my right to education, they cannot lock me up at home. I called them terrorists. They were offensive posts to them, surely.
And obviously they have done it all in a few days. It makes me feel devastated, terrified, sad.
The Taliban have announced that women should dress conservatively and wear hijab. People are wearing the burka and hijab out of fear.
I have heard of university students in some places having a curtain put between boys and girls in classes. Some families are not letting their daughters go to classes. Because everyone knows that the Taliban are not showing their real face yet, but they definitely will show it, and they want to avoid any problems when they do.
I watched the Taliban press conference (on Tuesday – where they promised women’s rights). They are lying, I am sure they are lying.
I went out on Tuesday with my father to find medicine. Everything was closed. I had to wear full hijab, and people are even wearing the burka, even 13 and 14-year-old girls. It’s nothing like before. You feel like the city is gone. The city is dead.
The Taliban were walking around. They look at you – even when you’re wearing full hijab – like you are not a normal human being, like they own your life, like you’re trash that should be thrown away. This is how they look at you in the streets.
When I was studying I was dreaming about so many things, life plans and goals.
Now, I think I will have to leave the country, because I’m Hazara. They’ve attacked schools for Hazara girls before, killing hundreds. So they will surely kill us, probably rape us, kill us. As a girl and also as a minority, there is no space for me in my own country.
All of my family is scared. We’ve been trying since the day the Taliban took over to try to get out, legally or illegally. The airport is too crowded, there are no spare spaces for evacuation, and countries are rejecting us, and everyone, everyone is just watching like nothing is happening.
The main thing I would ask for from foreign governments is for them not to recognise the Taliban as the government in Afghanistan. Because if they do, we will obviously be dead, probably worse than dead, who knows.
But what’s more devastating than seeing the city I love with all of my heart be taken – I don’t want to get emotional here – but what hurts the most is that the world is just so silent. Everyone is just so silent.
And people who just don’t care, they are acting and behaving like Afghans are not humans. And that breaks my heart. There’s the phrase, “Humanity for all”. But I think that that should probably be, “Humanity for all, except Afghans”. I never thought I would be at this point.
It is heart-breaking that in just a few days, everything that I ever dreamed of, everything I ever thought I would have, everything is gone.
The BBC is not naming the author for her safety