image captionFearing for her safety, Zarifa Ghafari left Afghanistan on a flight from Kabul airport

The fall of Kabul to the Taliban was a foreboding moment for Zarifa Ghafari, one of Afghanistan's first female mayors.

As Taliban fighters descended on the Afghan capital, she realised her life was suddenly in grave danger. Days later she fled with her family to Germany and has told the story of her dramatic escape to the BBC.

Ms Ghafari, 29, had become a prominent public official and voice for women's rights.

This, she believed, made her a threat to the Taliban, who are known for restricting the role of women in line with their strict interpretation of Islam. "My voice has the power that no guns have," she said.

At first, Ms Ghafari was defiant, even as she feared death during the Taliban's lightning-quick seizure of power. But that optimism has now turned to despair.

image sourceZarifa Ghafariimage captionMs Ghafari became the mayor of Maidan Shahr, west of Kabul, in 2018

Shortly after the Taliban takeover, Ms Ghafari was advised to move from her home. Concerns for her safety were soon realised when Taliban fighters showed up at her home and, as she explains, beat up her security guard.

Security has been a constant concern for Ms Ghafari in recent years, She has survived several attempts on her life since 2018, when aged 26 she became mayor of Maidan Shar, a conservative town where the Taliban have widespread support.

Animosity towards her culminated in the killing of her father late last year. He was a senior member of the Afghan military and Ms Ghafari suspects he had enemies in the Taliban.

When the Taliban swept to power in mid-August, Ms Ghafari decided the time had come to leave the country.

image sourceZarifa Ghafariimage captionFamily and friends warned Ms Ghafari that it wasn't safe for her in Afghanistan under Taliban rule

On 18 August, she arranged for a car to take her and her family to Kabul airport.

During the journey, she hid in a footwell in the car, ducking for cover every time they passed through a Taliban checkpoint.

"When we reached the airport gate, there were Taliban fighters everywhere," she said. "I was struggling to hide myself."

image sourceZarifa Ghafariimage captionMs Ghafari said she hid in the footwell of the car during the journey to Kabul airport

At the airport, the Turkish ambassador in Kabul helped them board a flight to Istanbul. From there, they flew on to Germany.

"When I lost my dad, [I thought I'd] never feel the same again in life," she said. "But when I boarded the plane to leave my country, it was more painful than losing my dad."

The day of Kabul's fall was the "worst moment of my life", she said.

"I'll never be able to manage the pain inside my heart. I never planned to leave my country," she said.

Now safe in the German city of Düsseldorf, Ms Ghafari acknowledged she was one of the lucky ones as the scenes around Kabul airport became increasingly dangerous.

image sourceZarifa Ghafariimage captionMs Ghafari flew to Germany via Istanbul in Turkey

She vowed to meet politicians and world leaders to draw attention to the lives of Afghans living under Taliban rule.

She would be willing to talk to the Taliban, too, because "we need to understand each other".

"Foreign forces are not coming to help us. It's our time to solve the issues with the Taliban. I'm ready to take this responsibility," she said.

image sourceZarifa Ghafariimage captionMs Ghafari had been working with in Afghanistan's ministry of defence to support the victims of war

Still, she does not trust the Taliban, especially on women's rights.

When they last held power before 2001, the Taliban enforced an ultra-conservative version of Islamic law, which they used to justify banning women from going to school or working.

Last week Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said women "will be very active in society but within the framework of Islam". But Ms Ghafari was sceptical: "Their words never match their actions."

She hoped to return to Afghanistan one day, when it is safe to do so.

"That's my country – I made it. I struggled for years to make it," she said.

"I would like to take the small amount of sand I took from my country back to where it really belongs."

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