In the Life

Judge Mahfuza's Story

The war started in our county when I joined school. At that time, the security situation was getting worse by the day. When I finished school, I could not continue my higher education due to economic problems, and I started work with the Ministry of Higher Education. Later on, I joined non-governmental organizations such as ASHINA (street’s children), as a teacher, and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Then, the Taliban captured our country. The girls’ schools were closed. Women and girls were not allowed to leave their homes. Women had to wear burqas when they went out, men were forced to have long beards and were sent to jail for not praying. They slashed the women when they appeared in public, we were not allowed to use vehicles without Mahram (man), nor did they allow private courses for women. They established a Ministry of Virtue to check on people in the cities who did not obey their rules, they did not allow the people to watch TV or listen to the radio.

Taking these problems into consideration, a number of women did not want to be silent. We felt responsibility and started to teach girls privately and confidentially in our homes so that we could save the girls from illiteracy, despite the constraints and threats. Women were only allowed to work in the health sector and women’s bakeries, which were implemented with the World Food Program as monitor and supervisor.

At that time, the computer was a new phenomenon in Afghanistan: 99 % of the people had no idea about computers, but people were very interested to learn both computers and English. At that time, I was the only woman that knew four computer programs, and so I opened a private computer course for women.

Some organizations were informed about my activities they requested that I cooperate with them and teach computers to women. I accepted. We started the program in one of the female hospital compounds (Rabia Balkhi). Most of the students were doctors and nurses. The Taliban were informed about our activity and tried to capture us. We were informed by one of the hospital workers and escaped through the rear door of the hospital. However, we were committed to our work and continued our activity in a different place. Again Taliban were informed and consequently, we moved the course to my personal residence. The Taliban chased us and entered my home to check whether we were teaching or not. I pretended that we were a big family. We hid the computers or spilled water on them to show they were not working. We were afraid. Students pretended that they were family members and busied themselves with housework. At one point, the Taliban put one of my students in jail for taking my course.

Some of the women in my courses were judges, lawyers and human rights workers and they are working for human rights organizations today.

When the Taliban collapsed, I was able to continue my higher education in law school and I worked part time with Afghan Women Judges Association. After graduation, I worked with Global Rights, a human rights organization, and attended the Judiciary Stage course, working as a judge in Kabul Primary courts. Besides that, I am now working as Director of Justice For All, which was established by judges and lawyers with the following objectives:

1. To strengthen the rule of law by ensuring that justice is upheld at all times.
2. To document the main sources of legal conflict in Afghanistan and propose legal solutions that institutionalize public legal systems and promote the law as the principal avenue for conflict resolution.
3. To provide free legal aid, legal advice and representation to those who need such services, especially the indigent who are most often deprived of access to justice.
4. To increase public awareness of the law and especially on women’s and children’s rights.
5. To cooperate with the justice sector and other relevant agencies in the country to promote justice and the rule of law in Afghan society.

Judge Mahfuza Folad