How Gen Z is Fighting for Afghanistan’s Future

A generation of Afghans born after 9/11 have no memory of life under Taliban rule. They are now speaking up and pushing back.

Ruchi Kumar

September 16, 2021

How Gen Z is Fighting for Afghanistan’s Future
Demonstration of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) in Peshawar, Pakistan to condemn the 6th black anniversary of swarming of fundamentalists into Kabul, April 28,1998 (Wikimedia Commons)

Everything that 19-year-old Zahra* knew about the Taliban, she learned from Khaled Hosseini’s novels. “My parents didn’t tell me much about what it was like for them living under [the] Taliban because they were protecting me. But I knew about their brutality from news and books,” she told me. “I just didn’t think I would be living under [their] regime.”

Zahra was born in Afghanistan months after the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in the U.S., which triggered the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and the fall of the Taliban regime. While the U.S. control of Afghanistan brought a semblance of security, much of the country remained in turmoil as the Taliban insurgency simmered. Widespread corruption and mismanagement by successive governments created disenchantment among the Afghan public. 

But for Afghans who grew up in the last 20 years, their country, despite all its flaws, is worth the fight. It is this generation — in a country where the median age is 18.4 years — that is now showcasing some of the strongest acts of resistance against the Taliban. 

On September 7, young women flooded the streets of Kabul to protest Taliban rule; the Taliban, in turn, hit them with batons and lashes. The protests echoed across other provinces, too. In Ghor, hundreds of women wielded guns and took to the streets, and in provinces across Afghanistan, women took to social media to protest Taliban dress codes under the hashtag #DontTouchMyClothes.