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We want our rights: Afghan women protesters

Group of brave women, held up placards in protest in Kabul, as Taliban gunmen kept an an eye on them

Sabrangindia 18 Aug 2021

KabulImage Courtesy:in.news.yahoo.com

The Taliban fighters are holding loaded guns, patrolling the streets of cities they have just taken over, and declared as territories they will now command. They have strict rules that their subjects must obey, especially women. Any defiance is likely to come at a cost. However, none of this seems to have scared off a small group of brave women, who were seen holding up placards in protest in Kabul. 

This is the first reported women’s protest in Kabul after the Taliban's takeover. The women held handwritten paper signs that reportedly read: “We want our rights, here are women, we want social security, no ban on work, the right to education and the right to political participation. No force can ignore and stifle women. All our achievements over the years should not be compromised and our basic rights!”

A protest, let alone one led by women, who the Taliban have historically considered lesser humans, has come across as a strong message from Afghanistan, from where so far have emerged images of chaos, followed by eerie calm on the streets, and palpable fear as the heavily armed Taliban fighters continue patrolling.

Thousands of Afghans have been attempting to flee the country in fear of what may be unleashed under Taliban rule, this group of women demanding their rights seen at the first public protest in Afghanistan. The Taliban leaders have been busy making assurances that girls and women will be able to study, and work, as long as they follow the ‘rules’. Images of a beauty shop for women removing posters and painting its front, went viral the day the Taliban reached Kabul. Many women are reportedly now fearful of their future under the Taliban regime. 

On Tuesday, the Taliban held it’s first press conference and its spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid claimed women in Afghanistan will be “allowed” to work, study and “be very active in society but within the framework of Islam." However, according to Reuters, “Some women have already been ordered from their jobs during the chaos of Taliban advances across the country in recent days. Others are fearful that whatever the militants say, the reality may be different.”

Women journalists have been the most vulnerable. Female news anchors have reportedly been replaced by men, though TOLONews removed and then once again placed women anchors back on screen.

There are some who say that times have changed, and the current generation of Afghan women are educated and aware. Communication, especially social media, has also meant that any actions will be known to the world within minutes.   

“Right now, we fight back” said Barak Zalmai Khan Durrani, an educationist and women’s rights activist who returned to live in Afghanistan. Durrani, once a refugee in Pakistan, said she had a right to be in Afghanistan. In response to a question where she’d considered fleeing after the Taliban takeover, Durrani told journalist Hala Gorani that as an educated woman she owes it to future generations to ensure Afghan girls receive education. “It is less heroic and more heroic… if we don't speak right now the next generation will not be educated. In the 90s there were more heroic women who were running underground schools.” In 2020, she was selected as the first woman from Kandahar and youngest in Afghanistan to receive the Malala Fund Education Champion award.

 

Women who managed to flee Afghanistan said they feared for those left behind. An Afghan woman who arrived in Delhi from Kabul on Sunday, told the media that she feared her friends back home “are going to get killed. They [Taliban] are going to kill us. Our women are not going to have any more rights," reported India Today.

Media reports and social media posts also indicated that many young Afghan women feared they will be forcefully “married” to Taliban fighters. Other images showed women donning the chadari, the full Afghan burqa that the Taliban have always enforced. Iranian journalist and activist Masih Alinejad said “compulsory hijab is Taliban’s culture.”

“Do not believe the lies of Taliban. I’m 23. Taliban forcibly marry women like me to their fighters. The spokesman of Taliban have account on Twitter. For what? For spreading their lies in the world,” said an Afghan woman whose video went viral recently. “No one cares about us. We’ll die slowly in history,” she had said in her chat with Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad on Tuesday. She added, “If the Taliban saw women like me, they’d forcibly marry me to one of their fighters, a marriage of Islamic rape in other words...They consider us, women, bounties of war.”

Women journalists are most vulnerable

In a blog in The Guardian, an unnamed woman journalist wrote that she was now on the run. She wrote, “Last week I was a news journalist. Today I can’t write under my own name or say where I am from or where I am. My whole life has been obliterated in just a few days. I am so scared and I don’t know what will happen to me." She asked, "Will I ever go home? Will I see my parents again? Where will I go? The highway is blocked in both directions. How will I survive?” She said she was not safe as a 22-year-old woman as “Taliban are forcing families to give their daughters as wives for their fighters. I’m also not safe because I’m a news journalist and I know the Taliban will come looking for me and all of my colleagues.”

The Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI) issued a statement of “solidarity with journalists and all other beleaguered civilians in Afghanistan, especially women, as the situation rapidly deteriorates amidst the Taliban take-over of the country.” The NWMI also urged the Indian government to “extend all possible support to vulnerable civilians and journalists, particularly women journalists, in Afghanistan.”

Women journalists who the NWMI was in contact with said, “We are living in a very risky situation and day by day we lose hope. We are concerned about our safety but also the loss of our achievements. I am not afraid of killing and death but afraid of their (the Taliban) cruel behaviour. I am really afraid for the young women journalists who live in the provinces. They are under pressure from this trauma and cannot escape.”

Women who are seen as threats are being targeted, especially if they are in cities other than the capital  Kabul. According to a report in India Today, Salima Mazari, who took up arms to fight the Taliban has reportedly been captured. According to reports Salima Mazari, a well known woman leader was captured by the Taliban .

History needs to be recalled again and again by all those following the developments in Afghanistan. In 1998 SabrangIndia co-founder and human rights defender Teesta Setalvad had written a piece titled Hell on Earth, that analysed how Afghan women in particular, were subjected to “an unending nightmare of terror and trauma” that were not restricted to severe restriction of movement, and choices, but included rape and murder if they or any family member dared to speak up. 

However, there is a small ray of hope this time, as another group of citizens also  took to the streets to protest any change in the nation’s flag, shared journalist Bashir Ahmad Gwakh, in a social media post.

Related:

Hell on Earth
Will Taliban takeover of Afghanistan be used to attack Indian Muslims?
Gov't will help Afghanistan's Sikhs and Hindus to come to India: MEA
Afghan crisis: Women, activists demand immediate ceasefire, protection for civilians
Afghanistan Crisis: What is India’s plan of action?
Afghan President flees as Taliban enters Kabul

We want our rights: Afghan women protesters

Group of brave women, held up placards in protest in Kabul, as Taliban gunmen kept an an eye on them

KabulImage Courtesy:in.news.yahoo.com

The Taliban fighters are holding loaded guns, patrolling the streets of cities they have just taken over, and declared as territories they will now command. They have strict rules that their subjects must obey, especially women. Any defiance is likely to come at a cost. However, none of this seems to have scared off a small group of brave women, who were seen holding up placards in protest in Kabul. 

This is the first reported women’s protest in Kabul after the Taliban's takeover. The women held handwritten paper signs that reportedly read: “We want our rights, here are women, we want social security, no ban on work, the right to education and the right to political participation. No force can ignore and stifle women. All our achievements over the years should not be compromised and our basic rights!”

A protest, let alone one led by women, who the Taliban have historically considered lesser humans, has come across as a strong message from Afghanistan, from where so far have emerged images of chaos, followed by eerie calm on the streets, and palpable fear as the heavily armed Taliban fighters continue patrolling.

Thousands of Afghans have been attempting to flee the country in fear of what may be unleashed under Taliban rule, this group of women demanding their rights seen at the first public protest in Afghanistan. The Taliban leaders have been busy making assurances that girls and women will be able to study, and work, as long as they follow the ‘rules’. Images of a beauty shop for women removing posters and painting its front, went viral the day the Taliban reached Kabul. Many women are reportedly now fearful of their future under the Taliban regime. 

On Tuesday, the Taliban held it’s first press conference and its spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid claimed women in Afghanistan will be “allowed” to work, study and “be very active in society but within the framework of Islam." However, according to Reuters, “Some women have already been ordered from their jobs during the chaos of Taliban advances across the country in recent days. Others are fearful that whatever the militants say, the reality may be different.”

Women journalists have been the most vulnerable. Female news anchors have reportedly been replaced by men, though TOLONews removed and then once again placed women anchors back on screen.

There are some who say that times have changed, and the current generation of Afghan women are educated and aware. Communication, especially social media, has also meant that any actions will be known to the world within minutes.   

“Right now, we fight back” said Barak Zalmai Khan Durrani, an educationist and women’s rights activist who returned to live in Afghanistan. Durrani, once a refugee in Pakistan, said she had a right to be in Afghanistan. In response to a question where she’d considered fleeing after the Taliban takeover, Durrani told journalist Hala Gorani that as an educated woman she owes it to future generations to ensure Afghan girls receive education. “It is less heroic and more heroic… if we don't speak right now the next generation will not be educated. In the 90s there were more heroic women who were running underground schools.” In 2020, she was selected as the first woman from Kandahar and youngest in Afghanistan to receive the Malala Fund Education Champion award.

 

Women who managed to flee Afghanistan said they feared for those left behind. An Afghan woman who arrived in Delhi from Kabul on Sunday, told the media that she feared her friends back home “are going to get killed. They [Taliban] are going to kill us. Our women are not going to have any more rights," reported India Today.

Media reports and social media posts also indicated that many young Afghan women feared they will be forcefully “married” to Taliban fighters. Other images showed women donning the chadari, the full Afghan burqa that the Taliban have always enforced. Iranian journalist and activist Masih Alinejad said “compulsory hijab is Taliban’s culture.”

“Do not believe the lies of Taliban. I’m 23. Taliban forcibly marry women like me to their fighters. The spokesman of Taliban have account on Twitter. For what? For spreading their lies in the world,” said an Afghan woman whose video went viral recently. “No one cares about us. We’ll die slowly in history,” she had said in her chat with Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad on Tuesday. She added, “If the Taliban saw women like me, they’d forcibly marry me to one of their fighters, a marriage of Islamic rape in other words...They consider us, women, bounties of war.”

Women journalists are most vulnerable

In a blog in The Guardian, an unnamed woman journalist wrote that she was now on the run. She wrote, “Last week I was a news journalist. Today I can’t write under my own name or say where I am from or where I am. My whole life has been obliterated in just a few days. I am so scared and I don’t know what will happen to me." She asked, "Will I ever go home? Will I see my parents again? Where will I go? The highway is blocked in both directions. How will I survive?” She said she was not safe as a 22-year-old woman as “Taliban are forcing families to give their daughters as wives for their fighters. I’m also not safe because I’m a news journalist and I know the Taliban will come looking for me and all of my colleagues.”

The Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI) issued a statement of “solidarity with journalists and all other beleaguered civilians in Afghanistan, especially women, as the situation rapidly deteriorates amidst the Taliban take-over of the country.” The NWMI also urged the Indian government to “extend all possible support to vulnerable civilians and journalists, particularly women journalists, in Afghanistan.”

Women journalists who the NWMI was in contact with said, “We are living in a very risky situation and day by day we lose hope. We are concerned about our safety but also the loss of our achievements. I am not afraid of killing and death but afraid of their (the Taliban) cruel behaviour. I am really afraid for the young women journalists who live in the provinces. They are under pressure from this trauma and cannot escape.”

Women who are seen as threats are being targeted, especially if they are in cities other than the capital  Kabul. According to a report in India Today, Salima Mazari, who took up arms to fight the Taliban has reportedly been captured. According to reports Salima Mazari, a well known woman leader was captured by the Taliban .

History needs to be recalled again and again by all those following the developments in Afghanistan. In 1998 SabrangIndia co-founder and human rights defender Teesta Setalvad had written a piece titled Hell on Earth, that analysed how Afghan women in particular, were subjected to “an unending nightmare of terror and trauma” that were not restricted to severe restriction of movement, and choices, but included rape and murder if they or any family member dared to speak up. 

However, there is a small ray of hope this time, as another group of citizens also  took to the streets to protest any change in the nation’s flag, shared journalist Bashir Ahmad Gwakh, in a social media post.

Related:

Hell on Earth
Will Taliban takeover of Afghanistan be used to attack Indian Muslims?
Gov't will help Afghanistan's Sikhs and Hindus to come to India: MEA
Afghan crisis: Women, activists demand immediate ceasefire, protection for civilians
Afghanistan Crisis: What is India’s plan of action?
Afghan President flees as Taliban enters Kabul

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