Kabul, Afghanistan – Marzia Hamidi, a 19-year-old Afghan taekwondoin, had big plans.
She used to dream of national and international championships but fears that those dreams are now dashed forever after the Taliban took control of the country in August.
By the end of September, she had to go into hiding after she heard that some members of the group had come looking for her.
“When the Taliban came [to power], I was thinking about destroying my medals,” she told Al Jazeera. “Burn them or keep them? I asked myself.”
Even Marzia’s Instagram account – with more than 20,000 followers – is a little bit darker now. She wears a black abaya and matching hijab, fearing Afghanistan’s new rulers.
She is not alone in her fears. Many women fear a return to enforced invisibility they lived under for five years (1996-2001) when the Taliban controlled Afghanistan last.
When the Taliban came to power, it promised to respect women and allow them to participate in public life “in accordance with Islamic law”, but secondary schools remain closed for girls, and many women are finding returning to work difficult, with the exception of some professions such as in the health sector.
Protests erupted across several cities last month, with women demanding their rights, but they were harshly suppressed.