The last time around that Afghanistan was rebuilding itself from the ravages of the terrorising Taliban regime during the late 1990s and early millennium, Razia Jan was an indomitable force leading the front in securing a better future for women and girls in the country. Now that the Taliban have returned, so has Razia. And she says she is here to stay, to fight till her last breath.
Decades of work activists and frontline women have put in stands to be undone by the radical Islamist outfit that imposed its leadership in Afghanistan on August 15. Only a week in, the growing atmosphere of fear has restricted women's mobility, independence, and in some places, even the right to work.
"We are back to the point that we started," Razia says to The Patriot Ledger. As the founder of education non-profit 'Razia's Ray of Hope' and the girls' school Zabuli Education Center in Afghanistan, the pioneering senior activist knows there is much to lose if people's fears come true.
Activists on-ground tell SheThePeople there are only slim chances they won't. 'Moderate' Taliban - an idea the group has attempted to push through press conferences and a slew of promises - is in all probability a myth and a return to their old misogynistic ways is inevitable.
Notwithstanding the uncertainty and agitation looming large over Afghan women, frontrunners like Razia Jan and her contemporary Mahbouba Seraj are refusing to give in. Because there is just no question of giving in anymore.
Razia Jan: The Light Of Afghan Girls' Lives And Future
Born in Afghanistan, Razia relocated to the United States in the 1970s. There in Massachusetts, she became a prominent member of the social circles by assuming leadership roles in the community. Back home in Afghanistan, it seemed war never ceased. Conflicts with neighbouring Pakistan, followed by the Soviet invasion and the oppressive Taliban rule prevented basics of safety and equality from ever becoming a reality for the girls in the country.
After the Taliban retreated in 2001 following the invasion of US troops, Razia returned to her homeland, partaking extensively in relief and restoration efforts.
Even back then, the threat of pushback against girls' education in Afghanistan's conservative society wasn't fully eradicated. Razia told CNN in 2012 her efforts had successfully proven to the local men that the education their daughters were getting was the "best thing that's happened."
Braving all dangers, no less to her own life, Razia persisted in making education accessible to children without discrimination. Her school on the outskirts of capital Kabul is a safe haven for little girls dreaming of a successful, liberated future.
"I will stand by my students and my girls until the last breath I have. We are not going to abandon them," an unshakeable Razia says today.