Women's Rights

Amid ongoing school ban, Baghlan women weave rugs

By Muhammad Qasem

A group of girls in Baghlan province have turned to carpet weaving to avoid isolation and learn new skills amid the ban on girls' schooling in Afghanistan. [Courtesy of Abdul Hameed Ruzwani]

BAGHLAN -- In the Baghlan provincial capital of Pul-e-Khumri, some young women have turned to carpet weaving amid the national ban on their education.

More than 500 families in the province are currently engaged in carpet weaving via home-based enterprises, said Baghlan Carpet Weavers Association chairman Mohammad Arif Ghulami.

The association helps them market the rugs they produce.

Many of the weavers are school or university students who have been making rugs "to escape mental pressure, stay busy and learn a vocation", Ghulami told Salaam Times.

Afghan girls deprived of a formal education weave rugs June 17 in the Baghlan provincial capital of Pul-e-Khumri. [Abdul Hameed Ruzwani]

Afghan girls deprived of a formal education weave rugs June 17 in the Baghlan provincial capital of Pul-e-Khumri. [Abdul Hameed Ruzwani]

Since the closure of girls' schools in August 2021, some regard this as a means of progress, "and they use this opportunity very well", he said.

"We have 500 carpet weaving and 150 gelem [a type of rug] weaving families in Baghlan," he said, explaining that the association brings raw materials from Kabul and helps to facilitate the sale of the finished products.

The lack of a suitable market and access to raw materials are the main challenges that carpet weavers face, Ghulami said.

Escaping depression

"I have been weaving carpets for a month now," said Pul-e-Khumri resident Suraya, 27. "I knew how to weave carpets before and started to do it again."

"The carpets we weave are sold cheaply on the market, but still I have to work day and night with my mother and brothers at home," she told Salaam Times.

They produce high quality hand-woven carpets, she said, but the work is difficult, and traders and some companies buy them at low prices.

Since the restrictions on women's employment, which parallel the ban on girls' education, some have turned to carpet weaving to escape mental pressure, support their families and regain Afghanistan's position in production, Sakina Hashemi, 24, told Salaam Times.

"Before starting to weave carpets, I was a second-year political science student at a private university in Baghlan," said Hashemi, who is learning to weave carpets in Pul-e-Khumri.

"After the closure of universities for girls, I had to stay home," she said. "I tried to find something to keep me busy to escape depression and isolation at home. Fortunately, I found carpet weaving and I am working now."

"I am currently learning how to weave carpets, and my mental health is better than before."

"My other goal is to reclaim the name of Afghan products, as different countries have exported our products under their own name in the past," she said.

"No effort can replace education, but I want to continue weaving carpets until the issue of girls' education is resolved and universities are re-opened for girls," Hashemi added.

Negin Masoudi, 19, a 12th grader at Bebe Amena Girls High School in Baghlan, said she has faced similar challenges since the ban on girls' education.

"Although carpet weaving is a difficult job for girls, I had to choose it to reduce mental pressure," she told Salaam Times.

"My mental state has improved since I've started to learn carpet weaving, and I have found hope for life again," Masoudi said.

"If they have closed the doors of schools and universities, we will open new doors of vocations and will never allow the removal of girls and women from society," she vowed.

Overcoming disappointment

At one time, rugs produced in Baghlan were shipped to Kabul and from there to Pakistan, where they were exported "under Pakistan's name", said Baghlan Department of Culture and Information cultural director Ezat Mir Haqqani.

"Now, however, carpets are processed in the country and sold as Afghan products," he told Salaam Times.

"Most of the carpets produced in the province were processed in Pakistan in the past but are now processed in Kabul," he added.

The department is working to address the challenges that carpet weavers face with the private sector, and find ways to sell locally manufactured carpets in the domestic and international markets, Haqqani said.

"Girls are highly motivated and work hard" to fill the gap in their lives that education once filled, said Kunduz city resident Tamana Habibi, 25.

"Girls and women have overcome disappointment," she told Salaam Times. "They are motivated and work hard to enhance their academic capabilities and learn different vocations."

"I want to convey this message to all my sisters that they should remain active in society, as they were in the past, and as women, they should serve their country and people," she said.

"I am confident that the path we have chosen in these difficult circumstances will lead Afghanistan to progress and success."

Education is the fundamental right of Afghan citizens, including women, emphasised Habibi. She called on the international community to support Afghan women by lifting restrictions on their education.

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Afghani carpets are very famous and valuable in the world. During the civil wars, Afghan carpet weavers migrated to Pakistan, where Pakistanis followed good protocol. Of course, this protocol was temporary and for a specific purpose; the Pakistanis wanted to take over the carpet-weaving business from Afghans. When our Turkmen citizens moved to Peshawar, the Pakistanis provided opportunities and taught them how to weave carpets. Afghan Turkmen used to weave carpets, and Pakistan exported them to Europe, America, and Arab countries under its label. It was a foreign country; Afghans were forced to work with their hands to earn a loaf of bread. The sad side was that the same Turkmen Afghans, who had a constructive role in the economy of Pakistan, would be severely punished by the police. When the police arrested these Afghans, they would take money from them and imprison them. The country is both mother and father. When leaders of a country become incompetent and corrupt, nations are forced to change their way of life and leave the country. The result is that, no matter how much a person is full of perfection, he will spend days and nights of uneasiness and indifference in a foreign country.


This is also a good activity for Afghan girls. They have fun, but it cannot take the place of school and university, because girls have the right to study and serve their country in the future. It is true that there is work for women and girls in the carpet weaving industry, but it is not possible for all girls and women to turn to carpet weaving. We need educated women and girls in every sector in this country. In our country, we need teachers, doctors, and women in every department to work, and we request the current government to open schools and universities for the girls, so that the Afghan society not get destroyed.


There will never be a substitute for education! Education is a great blessing; by getting it, a person can distinguish between good and bad and know his good and bad ways. From the way of education, any service to humanity can be done through any other art or profession. Still, Afghanistan has now fallen into the hands of someone illiterate, so whom may we complain to? In such situations, you need to change your path, which is arts and work. Before girls were allowed to study, many girls from each house went to school, university, and seminary. Still, now that they cannot go, they may better get busy in their vocation and work to remain free from useless thinking because, in their free time, human being starts thinking badly. Even during the past two years, many boys and girls committed suicide, which is considered joblessness. Considering this, weaving carpets is something good. On the one hand, it is business; on the other hand, it gives legitimate income.