The former Afghan prosecutor is today jobless and is living in fear and in penury. That she is a woman and is disabled only add to her woes.
Moshtari Danesh’s continues to struggle to live the life she has dreamt of – to live with her head held high. She is having to pay a huge price for that.
The Afghan war has punctuated every turn of her life. As municipalities crumbled for lack of maintenance in the Afghanistan she grew up in, and as water supplies became unreliable, the country saw the arrival of the deadly polio virus that hurt the youngest of its people. As a child, Moshtari would be counted one of these young Afghans children. Her legs could no longer help her play like other children her age did. The disability hurt.
As years rolled by, Moshtari Danesh got herself an education, difficult in the circumstances for a growing girl in Afghanistan those days. She worked hard to write and pass an examination that would make her part of the attorney general’s office or get her a position with the country’s election commission or else, a career in academics.
She went on to become a public prosecutor in 2015 in the office of the attorney general in the country’s capital, Kabul. A woman public prosecutor in a deeply conservative and patriarchal country, for effect.
For a brief window of her life, Moshtari Danesh held her head high. She believed there was no need to fear for what her work entailed. She thought that the Taliban that she had heard of and seen in her growing years was history. In a new Afghanistan, the clock would move, even if slowly, to herald another dawn.
A prosthetic leg she got with aid from the International Committee of the Red Cross, together with her crutches and a degree in law was all she needed to move on.
It was a struggle against all odds. For many a young girl, Moshtari Danesh was the star of the Parwan province.
Then came the Taliban
In 2021, days before the Taliban took over the country, Moshtari was promoted to oversee cases involving violence against women. She fought for women and she fought hard for something she strongly felt for.
But no sooner than the Taliban toppled the elected government and seized power in August, Danesh’s dream turned into a nightmare.
She has seen before her very eyes how the hard fought rights women had acquired have been thrown out of the window in the past few months.
The job she so cherished was lost and today, the life she struggled for is on the line.
Moshtari is now unemployed and her life has been overtaken by penury.
“We have been living in misery for several months,” Moshtari Danesh told Radio Azadi, a radio service run by Afghan journalists in exile. The family has no money to even pay the rent for the house they live in and winter is proving to be tough.
Like many Afghans, Moshtari is reeling from a devastating economic crisis triggered by the Taliban takeover and the sudden halt in international assistance. “We are suffering from poverty.”
Within days after the Taliban took over, the gates of the Kabul jail were thrown open to hardened criminals to walk out of. Those men are now looking for the people who sent them to prison.
So deepening poverty is not her only worry. Prosecutors who made the wheels of the country’s legal system are now being threatened by the criminals who hold them accountable for interrupting their criminal way of life.
“Prosecutors have had to change residences so that the convicts the Taliban freed could not find us,” said Moshtari. “We are now permanently living in hiding, and even our families cannot move freely.”
Life has now become a game of hide and seek as the thugs and criminals she had helped convict are now baying for her blood.
More than fighting off poverty and her disability, Moshtari is fighting to hold her head high. Because that has always been her dream.
Image: Radio Azadi