- The Washington Times - Monday, October 15, 2001

Marri, a young woman in Kabul, Afghanistan, smuggled this poignant letter out to London Sunday Telegraph correspondent Christina Lamb after the U.S. and British air strikes began last week.
Dear Christina,
This week I listen to the bombs falling on the airport and military command just a few miles away and though we are scared by the bangs which shake our flat, we believe they will not hurt us and we come out and watch the flashes in the sky and we pray this will be an end to our suffering.
You asked me to write a letter about our life under the Taliban regime and I hope this will help you outside to understand the feelings of an educated Afghan female who must now live under a burqa.
Although Marri is not my real name please use this as what we are doing is dangerous. I'm 30 years old and live in a three-room flat with my family on the outskirts of Kabul. I graduated from high school and speak Dari, Pushtu and English as my father was a diplomat and my mother an English teacher. My mother went to university in India.
I know from our friend that you have a kind husband and a beautiful son and you travel the world reporting and meeting people. I dream of a life like that. It's funny we live under the same small sky yet it seems we live 500 years apart.
You see us now in our burqas, like strange insects, scurrying in the dust our heads down, but it wasn't always this way. I do not remember much before the Russian invasion as I was still young but even when the Russians came we still went to school. Women worked as professors and doctors and in government. We went for picnics and parties, wore jeans and short skirts, and I thought I would go to university like my mother and work for my living.
I know in the villages many schools had been destroyed in the war but here in Kabul we were lucky. Only when the Taliban came were all the girls' schools and university closed.
Hidden in our house, behind all the burqas and shalwar kamiz, is a red silk party dress, my mother's, from the time when the king was in power and my father was in the foreign ministry. Sometimes I hold it up against me and imagine dancing but it is a lost world. Now we must wear clothes that make us invisible and cannot even wear high heels. Several of my friends have been beaten because the Taliban could hear their shoes clicking on the pavement.
You might think we women are doing nothing but my friends and I struggle for the rights of Afghan women, working secretly here for the Afghan Women's League, trying to educate our women and young girls. There is not much we can do as we are not allowed out, but some of our members make nan bread and distribute it.
We have small rebellions. Maybe you do not know but we are forbidden to wear make-up under the burqas but I have a red lipstick.
I have two brothers and two sisters, and right now my elder brothers work and we women must stay home all day. We study or we try to teach our neighbors some English but it is hard as we fear someone might report us and we cannot get English books. At night there is no light.
Life here is very miserable. We have no rights at all and we have asked many times other countries of the world for help but they have been silent.
Now it is good that after all this time the world has turned its face toward Afghanistan. Right now I want to laugh at the world a lot because in other countries of the civilized and progressive world no one knew about our problems before those attacks on America and now we are all the time on BBC.
You cannot imagine how an educated Afghan girl lives or how even when we go out for something in the market, the Taliban, in particular Pakistani Taliban, tease us a lot. They insult us and say: "You Kabuli girls, still coming out in the streets, shame on you," and worse. Now think, Afghanistan is my motherland and a Pakistani Talib treats me like that.
You might wonder why I am not married. It's hard to find love in this situation, we are so tired. I look in the mirror and I see a face that does not remember a time before war, and I would not want to bring a child into this city of fear.
We do not have schools, the doors of education are closed on all, especially us. We cannot paint or listen to music. The Taliban ran their tanks over all the televisions.
We asked the world, are we not human beings? Do we not deserve to live in peace? Can we not have our rights as women in other countries?
Many people have left but my family is staying, praying for change. The market is still working we Kabulis are tough and there is food in the market but we have stocked up in case it runs out. Already there is no oil.
The Taliban say this is a war on Afghanistan. Some of our friends say we must now support the Taliban against the outside, but how can we support those who lock us away? We listen secretly to the BBC and hope that Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair mean what they say.
I hope they do not come and bomb then forget us again. Maybe when you watch the bombs on CNN you will think of me and know we are real feeling people here, a girl who likes to wear red lipstick and dreams of dancing, not just the men of beards and guns.
I do not know what you want me to write to you. If I start writing I will fill all the paper and my eyes will fill with tears because in these seven years of Taliban no one has asked us to write about our lives.
In my mind I make a picture of you and your family. I wonder if you drive a car, if you go out with friends to movies and restaurants, and dance at parties. Do you play loud music and swim in lakes? One day I would like to see and I would also like to show you a beautiful place in my country with mountains and streams, but not now while we must be hidden people. Maybe our worlds will always be too far apart.

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