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TIME: After Pakistan's Floods, the Taliban's Shadow Lengthens

Author: Rania Abouzeid
November 4, 2010

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TIME reporter Rania Abouzeid describes the rise of the Taliban in Pakistan's Swat Valley.

Hamida likes her job, but she's doesn't know how much longer she can practice it. The 26-year-old is a "lady health visitor," a clinic-based paramedic tasked with providing reproductive and family planning assistance to the women of her community — Dherai — in the Swat Valley. "The situation was good until recently," she says, "and then last week somebody blew up the school."

Throughout the interview, Hamida is shrouded in her flowing cream dupatta, its green horizontal stripes firmly fixed over her hair, mouth and nose. She is covered up despite the fact that she is indoors, away from windows, and there are no men present. "If it gets more dangerous, I can't come to work," she says. "The security level is high now." The doe-eyed mother of two requested that TIME use only her first name. Her co-worker Falak, a bespectacled mother of four, makes the same request. She also keeps her beige dupatta firmly fixed over her face throughout the interview. "The Taliban's requirements are to cover yourself," says Falak, 30. "I think that because we are properly covered we shouldn't feel a threat from the Taliban. If we are going to come to work, I know to not look around or laugh on the streets but to just mind my own business. That way they won't say anything."

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