The National:

ACROSS Afghanistan, ordinary people who have spent the two decades since the Taliban fell from power watching their lives, careers and communities begin to flourish out of the seeds of optimism are now faced with the violent uprooting of that fragile progress.

None more so than the women and girls who had been able to work, to learn, to write and create, and to have their voices heard in ways that older generations had only dreamed of.

Following the US government’s decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in keeping with its deal with the Taliban (the “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan”), it seems that the women of the country have been condemned once again to the nightmare before the reprieve.

Afghan women, such as those bravely sharing their own and other women’s stories in the media in recents weeks, have told of their fear and distress as control of their country is handed over to an organisation which views women as second class and subjects them to physical and sexual violence, forced marriage, and exclusion from public life.

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It is unsurprising then, in these bleak circumstances, that 80% of those fleeing Afghanistan since the end of May to seek refuge elsewhere are women and children.

One journalist, Anisa Shaheed, who has put her life at risk to report on events in her home of Afghanistan, told the BBC: “I am worried that the hard work in the past 20 years by the media and the people of Afghanistan, whose greatest achievement has been the freedom of expression, will be lost.”

Speaking through tears to Good Morning Scotland this weekend, Sahraa Karimi, an independent filmmaker in Afghanistan, said: “I think about my generation, that we did a lot to bring these changes. I don’t care about myself, I am just one person, but there are thousands of beautiful, young, talented women in this country.” Her plea to those of us in the rest of the world? “Just talk about us.”

Plenty of people are talking about the situation in Afghanistan but, as with most significant world events, too many are saying more about themselves than they are the people whose lives are directly impacted by what’s happening.

While real people fear for the loss of their lives, of their freedom, of their children’s hopes and prospects, and while people with far more expertise than I have grapple with the complexity of causes and solutions to this crisis, there are those who have a habit of pronouncing themselves uniquely capable of resolving (or dismissing) crises taking place thousands of miles away in 280 characters or less.

There are those who, through a worldview so simplistic that you have to wonder if they have ever encountered a problem that wasn’t theoretical, want us to believe that the choice facing anyone scrambling for an opinion on a conflict they know next to nothing about is clear cut. Either you celebrate the “defeat” of imperialistic, Western forces in the Middle East, or you accept that George W Bush’s America was the real hero all along by launching a 20-year war.

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The choice is not that simple for those who are living with the consequences of decades of decisions they never had the chance to make, and it can’t be that simple for us (as much as we might wish it were so).

In an interview last week, founder of the Afghan Women’s Network Mahbooba Seraj gave a message for US, EU and Nato leaders: “I’m going to say to the whole world, shame on you for what you did to Afghanistan … Are you using all of us? Are we just the pawns in your hands?”

Perhaps this is a question which anyone wading into debates about the politics of Afghanistan right now should ask themselves. And maybe, instead of talking quite so much, more of us should start listening.

If there is one way that we, on the other side of the world, can help with this crisis beyond embracing our collective responsibility to open our doors, arms and pockets to those fleeing persecution, then surely, surely, it has to start with amplifying the voices of the very women the Taliban are working so hard to silence.