‘In Her Hands’ Explained: Who Is Zarifa Ghafari? What Role Does She In The Fight Against Taliban?

The Taliban took control of Afghanistan in 2021 after America decided to leave the country in the hands of the Taliban for a peace deal. The documentary film, “In Her Hands” is about the youngest female Afghan former mayor, Zarifa Ghafari. She is currently a refugee in Germany with her fiancé, Bashir. “In Her Hands” follows a series of events that took place before the fall of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, and the country’s situation after it fell into the hands of the Taliban. She fights for freedom and girls’ education despite numerous death threats. Under the control of the Taliban, the country has fallen apart due to economic and humanitarian crises. Can she rebuild her country and bring back peace? 


Spoilers Ahead

Who Is Zarifa Ghafari? 

Zarifa Ghafari was the mayor of Maidan Wardak; her appointment was held back for nine months as the local politicians opposed her because of her age and gender. Despite all their efforts, she stood her ground and became the youngest mayor of Afghanistan. Massoum was Zarifa’s bodyguard and driver. Massoum and Zarifa were close, and he considered her his sister. He supported her in her work and was happy to serve a woman like her. “In Her Hands” then moves forward to Taliban territory and introduces Musafer, the 36-year-old Taliban commander. In Taliban territory, no organized government exists, and the Taliban has all the power. They decide the killings and the punishments. 


In 1999, the Taliban took a woman to Chaman Hozori Stadium and shot her. Zarifa was just a child when the incident took place, and she narrates how throughout her childhood, she witnessed these horrors. Mullah Niazi, the Taliban offshoot leader, targets Zarifa Ghafari for her position in the system. They question her freedom and the consequences of letting her walk freely without the company of a husband. Under the Taliban, religious school students are taught Islamic texts. Although the Taliban doesn’t really believe in real education, Zarifa challenges their perspectives; she believes in the power of education. She has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. She went against the wishes of her father to pursue her studies. Abdul Wasi Ghafari (Zarifa’s father) was a military officer. Her father had an orthodox mindset, but Zariffa fought against it and eventually changed his mindset. She considers it to be her biggest life achievement. In February 2020, the threats increased as the Taliban followed Zarifa and Massoum. Zarifa decides to move to the city of Kabul. In March 2020, Zarifa was named the recipient of the Women of Courage award by the United States Department of foreign affairs. In her speech, she defines herself as a mayor who is concerned for the future of her country.

The Taliban targets government officials to show the extent of their power and control. Zarifa was also attacked by the Taliban on her way back home from Maidan Wardak when a car opened fire at her in Kabul. She was with her fiance at the time of the attack, and luckily she survived. In November 2020, Abdul Wasi Ghafri was assassinated by the Taliban. Her mother, Karima, narrates how brutally the Taliban killed him in front of his own home and son. Noman, Zariffa’s brother, wrote two letters, one for his father and one for his mother, in which he is thankful to his father and another in which he is grateful that his mother is still alive. The Taliban is responsible for making a young child a victim of such grief and loss. Zarifa was the spokesperson at her father’s funeral; she calls her father a martyr and the Taliban cowards.


Afghanistan Falls Into The Pool Of Economic Crisis As Corruption Prevails

In 2021, the situation in Afghanistan will become worse as the Taliban will control 80% of the nation. The people are angry at the politicians while the country falls into an economic crisis and corruption prevails. The Taliban blames the international community for the lack of support in the country. They say that the occupiers have looted the nation. Massoum narrates the origin of the Taliban; he calls them misled Afghans who come from the same blood as him. As the international forces lose control, the killings by Islamic extremists rise. An explosion takes place in a school in Kabul, wounding dozens of students. Zarifa reaches out to the victims and boosts their morale. Later, Zarifa is offered a new job at the Ministry of Defense and has to leave Maidan Wardak and Massoum behind. Massoum feels betrayed as he is left behind, but Zarifa has her own limitations and can’t keep Massoum as her driver anymore. She reaches out to the people at the Kabul camp for families displaced by Taliban fighting. She feels helpless and has a breakdown after meeting the families at the camp. 

The Taliban Wins And Takes Control, And Fear Takes Over As People Flee Their Own Country

On August 15, 2021, the Taliban forces took control of the city of Kabul. The president of Afghanistan has fled the country. The Kabul Airport is filled with people as families plan to escape the country. Zarifa reaches out to the UN for a recommendation to embassies. She feels hopeless as her homeland falls apart. She reaches the airport with her family and collects the sand from her land in a scarf. She finds refuge in Germany, where she has now settled with Bashir. She breaks down and feels like a coward for leaving her country behind. In a parallel universe, Massoum befriends the Taliban. He is looking for work as the economy has collapsed. A month after the Taliban took control, women protesters took over the streets of Kabul, fighting for their rights. Zafira is proud of them but feels sad for not being among them. The World Food Programme states that Afghanistan is facing a catastrophe of hunger, and the people of Afghanistan are now victims of homelessness, poverty, and unemployment. The media covers the horrific situation in the country, showing the condition of women begging for food. Most jobless people have become drug addicts. Massoum reflects on the irony of his life as he befriends the Taliban. He converses with the same people who almost shot him when he was working as a driver for Zarifa.


Zarifa Decides To Return Home And Fight Back

In January 2022, Zarifa decides to visit Afghanistan and calls up the Taliban, and in March, she leaves for Kabul. Zarifa appears on a talk show and tells the audience about the purpose of her visit. She asks the audience to free the women protesters for the betterment of the country. She wants to fight for her people; she has a charity center for women where women are taught stitching, and she asks these women to use this opportunity to become independent. She reaches out to people, asking them to wish for a female leader who will rebuild the country. She has faith and wishes for her country’s prosperity. She chooses to continue her fight to safeguard women’s rights in Afghanistan. The Taliban has imposed strict restrictions on women concerning their movement, dress code, and employment. They disapprove of the girls returning to secondary school. Afghanistan’s people are still fighting for survival without any hope of being saved. “In Her Hands” ends on a note about the situation of those who have fled and those who are stuck in poverty.

“In Her Hands” is a 2022 documentary film directed by Marcel Mettelsiefen and Tamana Ayazi.

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Mehak Arora
Mehak Arora
Mehak is a media student currently pursuing her masters in audio and visual production. She is a film enthusiast. She loves to travel. She is a photographer and loves to write about films.

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