Afghanistan’s Women Face Bleak Future, lament Afghan Women Activists

The future is bleak for Afghanistan’s women as the Taliban consolidate their hold over a shaky country and its people by reinforcing its barbaric interpretation of Islam which has stripped the women of all their rights and freedom, claim Afghan women activists.

In an emotional online interaction with members of the Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC) yesterday, they spoke of a return to the earlier nightmare Taliban regime of the 90s when women and girls were barred from educational institutions and publicly thrashed or executed for stepping outdoors alone.  “Women worked very hard to get back on their feet since 2000, but in a matter of days they have been stripped of all their rights,” said  Dr Humeira Rizai, researcher and activist.

Observing that women in exile have a duty to raise their voice for all the women in Afghanistan,  Shunkai Karokhail, Member of Parliament and a vocal advocate of women’s rights in Afghanistan,  came down heavily on the United States ,Pakistan, China, Russia and Iran for pushing their own ‘vested interests’ at  the cost of the Afghani people.

She said the U.S made an ‘historical mistake’ by exiting the country in such a hurried manner and should accept its mistake. “They ignored the democratic institutions and civil society in Afghanistan which only made the local war lords more powerful.”

Despite the Taliban claims that there will be a better from of governance in which women  and minorities will continue to enjoy basic rights, the facts suggest otherwise and the Afghan activists are openly skeptical.  “We do not recognize this Taliban regime as they have no religious minorities in their cabinet,” Dr Rizai, who belongs to the Hazara community, pointed out.

“They have not changed since the 1990s when they set the country back a 100 years. We witnessed the killing frenzy of the Taliban as they massacred Hazaras, Sikhs and Hindus. And now the last Jew has left Afghanistan, she said. “Now they have issued a Fatwa that Hazaras are infidels and should be killed.”

There have already been killings and beatings of women and men associated either with the previous regime or with banned activities like politics, sports and music. Many women activists and politicians are trapped in Afghanistan and keep changing their hide-outs because the Taliban ransacked their homes and took away their cars and the weapons of their security personnel, said Karokhail. “This is the way they are scaring women who either had to run away or keep silent.”

Afghan journalist Fatima Faramarz said the Taliban consider women as ‘animals’ to be treated as they please. She recalled a TV interview in which a Taliban leader had said that women were not able to shoulder responsibility. She cited the case of her own sister who was working in the police service and on reporting  for duty on August 15 to take up a  special training assignment was instead asked to hand in her resignation.

Karokhail warns that an internal uprising will start sooner or later as the Afghan people will not accept a government that does not keep abreast of other countries. “In today’s Afghanistan, women know how to raise their voices. Recently, they even protested against the Taliban regime. In return the Taliban raised their guns and beat them up publicly.”

Faramarz claims two of her colleagues were brutally beaten when they went to cover one such protest. “They were taken by the Taliban to a police station and beaten with batons and electrical cables.”

The activists have accused the former leaders of Afghanistan for the current situation and said they should be held accountable for their actions. “Former President Hamid Karzai called the Taliban ‘our brothers’ while Ashraf Ghani ran away from the problems and the deals that he had made with the Taliban,” said Dr Rizai.

Karokhail stressed that the way forward is for the Taliban to bring back women into the system and governance in Afghanistan. She said the country has been suffering from drought for the past several years and now with the Corona pandemic all economic activity has ceased. “As a Minister, I have not received any communication from the Taliban. All communications have closed even with  Afghanistan’s embassy in Canada. “

Karokhail was on the Taliban’s hit list and in one instance barely escaped with her life.  She fled Afghanistan on August 20 and now lives in Canada. Rizai and Faramarz have also taken shelter in other countries to escape the Taliban regime. END

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