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Afghan Woman Says It's A Relief That The U.S. Is Gone. That Chapter Is Over

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Some Afghans are worried about the future under the Taliban's rule. Mahbooba Seraj is one of them. She's the founder of the Afghan Women's Network, and she made the decision to stay in Afghanistan even as it became clear the Taliban were rapidly taking over the country. I checked back in with her earlier this morning.

We spoke with you about two weeks ago, and during that conversation, you told us you felt abandoned by the U.S. And now that the last military planes and troops have left the country, Mahbooba, how do you feel right now?

MAHBOOBA SERAJ: Do you want me to tell you the truth?

MARTINEZ: Absolutely. Please.

SERAJ: Really? An absolute sense of relief.

MARTINEZ: Really?

SERAJ: Absolutely.

MARTINEZ: Relief. Why?

SERAJ: Honestly. Because, you know, a whole lot of - how shall I say? - confusion, games - one big part of it is closed. You know, they did what they did. Everything - it's done now. So now we are on our own - you know? - in a way, and hoping and praying for the support of the people of the world but not much of the leaders of the world. And we are - I was actually relieved.

MARTINEZ: I have to admit that answer shocked me 'cause considering where we were a few weeks ago, to know that you feel a sense of relief - is it more of a sense of now it's - the politics of all of this is over. Now I can deal with life, however it's going to treat me?

SERAJ: Exactly.

MARTINEZ: OK.

SERAJ: Exactly. It's like, whatever it is, now I know what I'm going to be doing. And it is what is, and this is the battlefield for me.

MARTINEZ: And do you have any clarity in terms of what faces you now?

SERAJ: No, I don't. I don't have it, really, as much as I would wish I could. But it's coming, I'm sure. That shall come too. We will - you know, we will be facing each other, I'm sure. There's going to be a day, I'm sure it will. Everything is going to be - you know, I'm not going to be in hiding. They're not going to be in hiding. We are going to come out and actually most probably sit across from each other and find out exactly what we are going to do, what they are going to do, what is happening in this country.

MARTINEZ: I'm blown away by your confidence. You have an amazing sense of confidence and strength that just - it's striking to me. I mean, how do - considering the situation, how do you have that?

SERAJ: I have to tell you the honest truth. I didn't even know I had it. It's something that - when you are facing what we are facing, you know, in life and when you are facing what we have been facing throughout our history, you know, all of that makes us who we are. And this is what has made me who I am and made the Afghan women who they are. And being fearful, fearful of something that I don't know - it doesn't make any sense. So this is what I'm just holding on, and this is what I want to do, and this is what's going to be happening.

MARTINEZ: But don't we know at least a little of what the Taliban has in store for women? We saw it before. I realize that the Taliban is trying to turn over a new leaf, at least publicly. They've been saying that. But don't we have an idea of what's to come?

SERAJ: Yeah, I do. And that really - you know, that really bothers me very much. More than scaring me, it bothers me. Why it bothers me is because that is the epitome of stupidity, if that's what they want to do. And I'm hoping that they are not that. I really am hoping because you cannot cripple half of a country's, you know, population - a very, very careful, very knowledgeable, very, you know, powerful branch of the society, a part of the whole country, and then because they are women, just disregard them. That's not how it's supposed to be.

MARTINEZ: What message - what do you want people to know about what you're feeling and what you're thinking as this new chapter in Afghanistan begins?

SERAJ: Oh, you know, the Afghans - they went through a lot of misery. They went through a lot of hurting their pride, their humanity, especially in the past, you know, few months and the past, especially, few weeks and the past 20 years. So now I don't want the Afghans to be feeling that letdown and that feeling of being, like, not given a worth. I don't want them to feel worthless. We are not worthless people. We are proud people. We are good people. We are capable people. So that's the Afghan that I want to come out and be in the world.

MARTINEZ: Mahbooba Seraj is the founder of the Afghan Women's Network. She joined us via Skype. Mahbooba, thank you very much, and please stay safe.

SERAJ: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.