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Women who dared to raise their voices are vulnerable, yet they rise

Brave Afghan women continue to demand equal rights vis a vis education and employment, even as Taliban shows its old face again

Sabrangindia 23 Aug 2021

Women protesterImage Courtesy:freepressjournal.in

What is common between Afghanistan’s brave citizens, Shaheen Bagh residents, farmers at Tikri Border? Women! Three revolutions in different regions, with different issues, which are being led by the bravest of women citizens. 

The struggles have just begun for Afghanistan, yet so has a ray of hope, in the form of brave women protestors who took to the streets, just hours after the gunmen of the Taliban took over the country. “I am studying and I'm striving to achieve my goals, but today all of my dreams die,” Crystal Bayat told NY times in a video interview, soon after the Taliban took over. As an Afghan woman, she knew that the Taliban’s rule included a literal caging up of all women, even though they may claim otherwise. Bayat was among the seven women who led a protest she helped organise on Afghanistan’s Independence Day, marching on bravely with a group of over 200 protesters, even as the Taliban’s gunmen were all over the streets. Days after the Taliban took over, raising the Afghan flag became an act of resistance too, “I am raising the voice of a million women,” she said. "In 20 years, we have had lots of changes in our society, and they are taking it back,” she said of the Taliban, who she had faced for the first time. “I am not scared. If they shoot me…” she said, “till the time they shoot” she is firm she will not let them take away her fundamental flights… “a woman can be brave… same like a man.” 

Many protesting women had uncovered faces, some wore surgical masks as Covid-19 mandates. Their  slogan “Our flag is our identity!” rang out loud and clear. The group gathered strength from each other. A reminder of recent pro-democracy revolutions in India, often led by women as seen in Shaheen Bagh, at the farmers protest, when demanding forest rights for Tribal communities, and fair wages Anaganwadi workers among others. As in Afghanistan, these women too have risked their lives in seeking justice. 

Women who dared to raise their voices are vulnerable 

However, in Afghanistan now, there is a real possibility that a bullet is marked for every woman who has dared to raise her voice against the Taliban regime, or just demanded that the human rights earned in the last two decades be maintained for women, and men.

Another brave woman was Pashtana Zalmai Khan Durrani, an educationist who is an advocate of supporting girls’ education. In the last two decades generations experienced education and gained confidence as equal citizens thanks to people like her. “Taliban don't stand for anything but violence, they don't stand for Afghanistan, justice, education… This means losing everything... everything we have worked for in 20 years.. Your identity… everything. We have sacrificed thousands of men just for our girls to get to school… but now…”. Her life too may be in danger, and yet is on social media, raising awareness so the world responds to the danger Afghan women are under once again.

Afghan women won’t relinquish their rights

Crystal Bayat was clear that women ‘won’t relinquish’ their rights’, even as Afghan women continue to say that they are now being denied the right to work by the Taliban. According to news reports, Afghan women working at a bank in Kandahar were asked to leave because they were deemed ‘inappropriate’ for their jobs and ‘were allowed to be replaced by male relatives.’ Crystal Bayat, was one of them. According to an India Today interview, Bayat said  the women who protested want to show the Taliban that the people of Afghanistan have changed and that the Taliban should also change accordingly. She said, "We wanted to show the people of Taliban that Afghanistan and its people have changed. You all have to change and you have to forget your extremist thoughts and beliefs. We are unavailable from our rights and freedoms. How long should we be afraid of the Taliban? We have to face this group."

However she knew that the Taliban had not changed at all and were still "narrow-minded" like they were in the 1990s. The Bayat-led protesters had managed to march to Wazir Akbar Khan hilltop and hoisted the Afghan national flag there on August 19, the nation’s Independence Day. En route it was the Taliban who were manning checkpoints.

Educationist Shabana Basij-Rasikh said, "In March 2002, after the fall of Taliban, thousands of Afghan girls were invited to go to the nearest public school to participate in a placement test because the Taliban had burned all female students’ records to erase their existence. I was one of those girls.” Now sharing a clip of a fire burning, she says, “Nearly 20 years later, as the founder of the only all-girls boarding school in Afghanistan, I’m burning my students’ records not to erase them, but to protect them and their families.”

A professor shared that “Universities in Herat are ordered by Mawlawi Farid, a senior Taliban official, to separate male and female classes. They are also told to find female teachers for girls.”

According to a report in the Hindustan Times, Afghan women are demanding that the Taliban will have to take them into account when the new ‘government’ is formed and the formation of a new regime in the country. Several women, including human rights activists, have said they have worked hard for their rights over the past two decades and cannot go back. The Taliban had said women “would enjoy equal rights” in accordance with Islamic law, including access to education and jobs. In the first press conference on Tuesday since capturing Kabul, spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said women would have rights to education, health and employment and that they would be "happy" within the framework of Sharia. "Taliban are committed to providing women with their rights based on Islam. Women can work in the health sector and other sectors where they are needed. There will be no discrimination against women." Mujahid, specifically referring to women working in the media, said it would depend on what laws were introduced by the new government in Kabul.

The new ‘government’ may be announced after August 31. According to Voice of America, “Leaders of the Taliban insurgency are still conducting internal talks and meetings with former rivals on forming what they have promised will be an “inclusive Islamic government.” 

However, several Afghan women have openly expressed fears that they may not have the same rights as before. On Tuesday, soon after the Taliban had announced that women will not be targeted, international media reported that a woman was shot and killed for not wearing a burqa in Afghanistan’s Takhar province. Many others reported that sales of the Taliban approved burqa that even covered the eyes had gone up since the take over. Women journalists too have said they were not allowed to work by the Taliban. Shabnam Khan Dawran, an anchor at RTA (Radio Television Afghanistan), said she could not enter her office. "I wanted to return to work, but unfortunately they did not allow me to work. They told me that the regime has changed and you cannot work," Dawran was quoted as saying by Tolo News.

Taliban trampling women’s rights in Afghanistan was predicted

Taliban’s trampling of women’s rights in Afghanistan now, now obvious to the world, is perhaps the beginning of what was observed during and since its last "rule" in Afghanistan 20 years ago. Brookings scholars, public officials, and other subject-area experts, wrote a gender study on Afghanistan in September 2020. When the United States began to reduce “its military presence in Afghanistan while the Taliban remained strong on the battlefield.” It stated that “a massive question mark hangs over the fate of Afghan women and their rights. The deal that the United States signed with the Taliban in Doha on February 29, 2020, leaves the future of Afghan women completely up to the outcomes of the intra-Taliban negotiations and battlefield developments.”

According to the essay, “In exchange for the withdrawal of its forces by summer 2021, the United States only received assurances from the Taliban that the militants would not attack U.S. and its allies’ targets, conduct terrorist attacks against U.S. and allies’ assets, or allow the territory under Taliban control to be used for such terrorist attacks.” It stated that there were “strong reasons to believe that the fate of Afghan women, particularly urban Afghan women from middle- and upper-class families who benefited by far the most from the post-2001 order, will worsen.”

The deadly, and easy ‘prediction’ as it were was that “the issue of women’s rights in Afghanistan faces highly uncertain prospects, and most likely women’s rights will deteriorate.” The 2020 essay may be read here, and as reports and social media posts from Afghanistan, especially by its brave women continue to show that their worst fears are coming true.

Soon after the Taliban took over Afghanistan's  capital Kabul on Sunday, over 1,200 Afghan and Iranian women and civil society activists have signed an open letter demanding “an immediate ceasefire as well as protections for Afghan civilians”.

Related:

Oppressed but not beaten: Afghani accounts on social 
Journalists are targeted by all hardliner regimes, this time in Afghanistan
Afghanistan crisis: A tool to target Islam?
Afghanistan: The End of the Occupation
Controversial comments on Taliban draw ire
Taliban 2.0: Old laws in newer package?
Zee proposes “Afghanistan Tour Package” for “Tukde-tukde gang”
We want our rights: Afghan women protesters
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

Women who dared to raise their voices are vulnerable, yet they rise

Brave Afghan women continue to demand equal rights vis a vis education and employment, even as Taliban shows its old face again

Women protesterImage Courtesy:freepressjournal.in

What is common between Afghanistan’s brave citizens, Shaheen Bagh residents, farmers at Tikri Border? Women! Three revolutions in different regions, with different issues, which are being led by the bravest of women citizens. 

The struggles have just begun for Afghanistan, yet so has a ray of hope, in the form of brave women protestors who took to the streets, just hours after the gunmen of the Taliban took over the country. “I am studying and I'm striving to achieve my goals, but today all of my dreams die,” Crystal Bayat told NY times in a video interview, soon after the Taliban took over. As an Afghan woman, she knew that the Taliban’s rule included a literal caging up of all women, even though they may claim otherwise. Bayat was among the seven women who led a protest she helped organise on Afghanistan’s Independence Day, marching on bravely with a group of over 200 protesters, even as the Taliban’s gunmen were all over the streets. Days after the Taliban took over, raising the Afghan flag became an act of resistance too, “I am raising the voice of a million women,” she said. "In 20 years, we have had lots of changes in our society, and they are taking it back,” she said of the Taliban, who she had faced for the first time. “I am not scared. If they shoot me…” she said, “till the time they shoot” she is firm she will not let them take away her fundamental flights… “a woman can be brave… same like a man.” 

Many protesting women had uncovered faces, some wore surgical masks as Covid-19 mandates. Their  slogan “Our flag is our identity!” rang out loud and clear. The group gathered strength from each other. A reminder of recent pro-democracy revolutions in India, often led by women as seen in Shaheen Bagh, at the farmers protest, when demanding forest rights for Tribal communities, and fair wages Anaganwadi workers among others. As in Afghanistan, these women too have risked their lives in seeking justice. 

Women who dared to raise their voices are vulnerable 

However, in Afghanistan now, there is a real possibility that a bullet is marked for every woman who has dared to raise her voice against the Taliban regime, or just demanded that the human rights earned in the last two decades be maintained for women, and men.

Another brave woman was Pashtana Zalmai Khan Durrani, an educationist who is an advocate of supporting girls’ education. In the last two decades generations experienced education and gained confidence as equal citizens thanks to people like her. “Taliban don't stand for anything but violence, they don't stand for Afghanistan, justice, education… This means losing everything... everything we have worked for in 20 years.. Your identity… everything. We have sacrificed thousands of men just for our girls to get to school… but now…”. Her life too may be in danger, and yet is on social media, raising awareness so the world responds to the danger Afghan women are under once again.

Afghan women won’t relinquish their rights

Crystal Bayat was clear that women ‘won’t relinquish’ their rights’, even as Afghan women continue to say that they are now being denied the right to work by the Taliban. According to news reports, Afghan women working at a bank in Kandahar were asked to leave because they were deemed ‘inappropriate’ for their jobs and ‘were allowed to be replaced by male relatives.’ Crystal Bayat, was one of them. According to an India Today interview, Bayat said  the women who protested want to show the Taliban that the people of Afghanistan have changed and that the Taliban should also change accordingly. She said, "We wanted to show the people of Taliban that Afghanistan and its people have changed. You all have to change and you have to forget your extremist thoughts and beliefs. We are unavailable from our rights and freedoms. How long should we be afraid of the Taliban? We have to face this group."

However she knew that the Taliban had not changed at all and were still "narrow-minded" like they were in the 1990s. The Bayat-led protesters had managed to march to Wazir Akbar Khan hilltop and hoisted the Afghan national flag there on August 19, the nation’s Independence Day. En route it was the Taliban who were manning checkpoints.

Educationist Shabana Basij-Rasikh said, "In March 2002, after the fall of Taliban, thousands of Afghan girls were invited to go to the nearest public school to participate in a placement test because the Taliban had burned all female students’ records to erase their existence. I was one of those girls.” Now sharing a clip of a fire burning, she says, “Nearly 20 years later, as the founder of the only all-girls boarding school in Afghanistan, I’m burning my students’ records not to erase them, but to protect them and their families.”

A professor shared that “Universities in Herat are ordered by Mawlawi Farid, a senior Taliban official, to separate male and female classes. They are also told to find female teachers for girls.”

According to a report in the Hindustan Times, Afghan women are demanding that the Taliban will have to take them into account when the new ‘government’ is formed and the formation of a new regime in the country. Several women, including human rights activists, have said they have worked hard for their rights over the past two decades and cannot go back. The Taliban had said women “would enjoy equal rights” in accordance with Islamic law, including access to education and jobs. In the first press conference on Tuesday since capturing Kabul, spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said women would have rights to education, health and employment and that they would be "happy" within the framework of Sharia. "Taliban are committed to providing women with their rights based on Islam. Women can work in the health sector and other sectors where they are needed. There will be no discrimination against women." Mujahid, specifically referring to women working in the media, said it would depend on what laws were introduced by the new government in Kabul.

The new ‘government’ may be announced after August 31. According to Voice of America, “Leaders of the Taliban insurgency are still conducting internal talks and meetings with former rivals on forming what they have promised will be an “inclusive Islamic government.” 

However, several Afghan women have openly expressed fears that they may not have the same rights as before. On Tuesday, soon after the Taliban had announced that women will not be targeted, international media reported that a woman was shot and killed for not wearing a burqa in Afghanistan’s Takhar province. Many others reported that sales of the Taliban approved burqa that even covered the eyes had gone up since the take over. Women journalists too have said they were not allowed to work by the Taliban. Shabnam Khan Dawran, an anchor at RTA (Radio Television Afghanistan), said she could not enter her office. "I wanted to return to work, but unfortunately they did not allow me to work. They told me that the regime has changed and you cannot work," Dawran was quoted as saying by Tolo News.

Taliban trampling women’s rights in Afghanistan was predicted

Taliban’s trampling of women’s rights in Afghanistan now, now obvious to the world, is perhaps the beginning of what was observed during and since its last "rule" in Afghanistan 20 years ago. Brookings scholars, public officials, and other subject-area experts, wrote a gender study on Afghanistan in September 2020. When the United States began to reduce “its military presence in Afghanistan while the Taliban remained strong on the battlefield.” It stated that “a massive question mark hangs over the fate of Afghan women and their rights. The deal that the United States signed with the Taliban in Doha on February 29, 2020, leaves the future of Afghan women completely up to the outcomes of the intra-Taliban negotiations and battlefield developments.”

According to the essay, “In exchange for the withdrawal of its forces by summer 2021, the United States only received assurances from the Taliban that the militants would not attack U.S. and its allies’ targets, conduct terrorist attacks against U.S. and allies’ assets, or allow the territory under Taliban control to be used for such terrorist attacks.” It stated that there were “strong reasons to believe that the fate of Afghan women, particularly urban Afghan women from middle- and upper-class families who benefited by far the most from the post-2001 order, will worsen.”

The deadly, and easy ‘prediction’ as it were was that “the issue of women’s rights in Afghanistan faces highly uncertain prospects, and most likely women’s rights will deteriorate.” The 2020 essay may be read here, and as reports and social media posts from Afghanistan, especially by its brave women continue to show that their worst fears are coming true.

Soon after the Taliban took over Afghanistan's  capital Kabul on Sunday, over 1,200 Afghan and Iranian women and civil society activists have signed an open letter demanding “an immediate ceasefire as well as protections for Afghan civilians”.

Related:

Oppressed but not beaten: Afghani accounts on social 
Journalists are targeted by all hardliner regimes, this time in Afghanistan
Afghanistan crisis: A tool to target Islam?
Afghanistan: The End of the Occupation
Controversial comments on Taliban draw ire
Taliban 2.0: Old laws in newer package?
Zee proposes “Afghanistan Tour Package” for “Tukde-tukde gang”
We want our rights: Afghan women protesters
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

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