KABUL, Afghanistan – On some days, life as a young woman in Kabul can feel suffocating for Hadis Lessani Delijam, a 17-year-old high school senior.
Once, a man on the street has been here for here makeup and Western clothes; they are shameful, he bellowed. A middle-aged woman cursed here for strolling and chatting with a young man.
For solace, Ms. Delijam retreats to a unique venue – the humble coffee shop.
"This is the only place where I can relax and feel free, even if it's only for a few hours," Ms.
The cafes are sanctuaries for an Islamic culture that dictates how they should dress, have public and interact with men. Those traditions endure 18 years after the top of the Taliban, who banned girls' education, confined women to their homes and forced to wear burqas in public.
These days, conversations at the cafes often turn to the Afghan peace talks in Doha, Qatar, between the United States and the Taliban. Many women have their rights under bargaining from the fundamentalist, all-round Taliban delegation.
"We are so frightened," said Maryam Ghulam Ali, 28, an artist who was sharing chocolate cake with a friend at a coffee shop called Simple. "We ask each other what will happen to the Taliban come back."
"When we come to cafes, we feel liberated," she added. “No one forces us to put on our head scarves.” Many young women in Kabul's emerging cafe society were infants under the Taliban rule. Ms. Delijam had not been born yet. They have come to the post-Taliban struggle by many young Afghans to break free of the harsh contours of a patriarchal society.
The women have grown up with cellphones, social media and the right to express themselves freely. They cannot imagine returning to the puritanical dictates of the Taliban, who sometimes stoned women to death on suspicion of adultery – and still in areas they control
media campaign, #myredline, that implements women to stand up for their rights. Her Facebook page is studded with photos of herself inside coffee shops, symbols of her own red line.
"Going to a cafe and talking with friends brings me great happiness," Ms. In front of said she sat inside a Kabul coffee shop. "I refuse to sacrifice it."
But those freedoms could disappear if the peace talks bring the Taliban back into government, she said.
"I don't want to be recognized as someone's sister or daughter," she said. "I want to be recognized as a human being."
Beyond cafe walls, progress is painfully slow.
"Even today, we can walk on the streets without being harassed," Ms. Forotan said. "People call us prostitutes, Westernized, from the 'democracy generation.'"
Afghanistan is consistently ranked the worst, or among the worst, countries for woman.
One Afghan tradition dictates that single women belong to their fathers and married to their husbands. Arranged marriages are common, often to a cousin or other relative.
In the countryside, young girls are sold as brides to older men. Honor kittens – women killed by male relatives for contact with an unapproved male.
In 2014, the Taliban launched a series of attacks against cafes and restaurants in Kabul, including a suicide bombing and gunfire that killed 21 customers at the popular Taverna du Liban cafe, where alcohol was served, and Afghan men and women among Westerners.
Afterward, the government forced a host of cafes and guesthouses to shut down for fear they would draw more violence. 19659008] For the next two years, much of westernized social life in Kabul moved to private homes. But in 2016, new coffee shops opened to open, catering to young women and men to mingle in public again.
Still, except for urban outposts like Kabul, Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif, there are few cafes in Afghanistan where women can mingle with men. Most restaurants reserve their main rooms for men and set aside "family" sections for women and children.
That is why the Kabul cafes are so treasured by Afghan women, who seek kindred souls there. as powerful as religion, ”said Fereshta Kazemi, an Afghan-American actress and executive executive who often frequented Kabul coffee shops.
" The need to connect, to share and love, to make eye contact, is instinctual, "she said
After the Taliban fell in 2001, attending schools and universities, working institutes in private and government jobs, and living alone or with friends in apartments, fell into instincts. The Afghan Constitution reserves 68 out of 250 seats for women, at least two women from each of 34 provinces.
Mina Rezaee, 30, who opened the simple coffee shop in Kabul a year
"Women make the culture here, not men," she said.
"Look at them – I love it," Ms. Rezaee said. “It's the Taliban who needs to change their ideology, not us. That's my save line. "Tahira Mohammadzai, 19, was an infant in the southern city of Kandahar, the Taliban headquarters, when the militants ruled Afghanistan. Her family fled to Iran and returned seven years ago to Kabul, where she is a university student.
"I heard stories from my mother about how different life was then," she said at the Jackson coffee shop, named for Michael Jackson . “It's impossible now to go back to the way things were.”
Here red line? She said she would rather live with the war, now in her 18th year, than face and postwar government that included the Taliban.
"If they come back, I will be the first one to Afghanistan," Ms. Mohammadzai said,
Ms. Forotan, the #myredline founder, she was determined to stay no matter what happens.
"I wish there was a cafe full of male politicians who had one priority – peace," she said.