Interview: Zayed As Khaliq Tells His Tale of Life Under the Taliban


By Liz Sly

Ludly of Capital Pictures

As the Taliban continue to seize control of Afghanistan’s south, foreign journalists are increasingly crowded out of the country. The Washington Post’s Liz Sly says Khalida Popal, a former National Football League star and NATO gold medalist in 2004, gives firsthand accounts of life under the Taliban, which took control of the country’s second-largest city of Mazar-i-Sharif Sept. 15.

» Read more articles in this series

Popal also provided the Washington Post with her own account of a drive to Kabul from the town of Gulbahar, where she lives.

After a three-hour drive through vast fields and fields of spring wheat, her convoy came to a checkpoint. The policemen – all men – approached Popal’s car. Popal, wearing a niqab covering her face but allowing only her eyes to be seen, explained that she is a big supporter of women’s rights and that she was on her way to see her daughter and grandchildren.

Instead of questioning her, one of the officers pulled out a gun and began to examine her face. One had his finger on the trigger. She was nervous, and asked the others for help. “It’s the Taliban,” Popal recalled the men saying.

They’re Muslim but…the Taliban say they respect Afghan women’s rights, she told me.

She repeated that she came to the checkpoint because of her support for women’s rights. Two men, including one with a gun, then returned to the car. One pointed the gun at Popal’s head, and the others demanded that she leave the country.

She said she has no home in Kabul. If she came back, it’s like crossing the border to Pakistan, which is no way to live, she says.

Follow stories leading up to the fall of Mazar-i-Sharif in the same series by Liz Sly, Washington Post correspondent Liz Sly and photographer Ludly of Capital Pictures.

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