Afghanistan: Women protesters worried about their safety

Afghan women attend a rally in Kabul on January 16, 2022, to protest the killing of former policewomen by Taliban.

A number of Afghan women have told Amu TV that they are in imminent danger and are being searched for by Taliban forces after having taken part in protests calling for their basic rights to be reinstalled.

Shahla Arif, one of the protesters, said she was wanted by the Taliban for speaking out in an interview with a private media outlet. Shahla said that the Taliban had chased her and that she had been forced to leave her home.

“We are protesting against the Taliban for the rights of women and girls. If the Taliban denies women their rights, we want the end of the Taliban government,” she said, adding that she had been beaten several times by the Taliban during demonstrations, and that once she was hospitalized after being badly injured by the group.

“I have been threatened several times with notices sent by the Taliban. I ask the international community to stop supporting the Taliban and put the necessary pressure on the group,” she added.

Regarding the achievements of Afghan women’s protests, Shahla Arif said: “The Taliban being introduced as a misogynistic group to the world, is the biggest achievement.”

Death and imprisonment are far better than slavery

Another female protester, who wished to remain anonymous due to security reasons, also said that women who were involved in anti-Taliban protests are in serious danger, and that they are being searched for by the Taliban intelligence agencies.

“I was wanted [by the Taliban], I had stayed away from all social media, including WhatsApp, for two weeks; Because I was getting warning messages. I could have been arrested if I didn’t leave my home,” she said.

“Women are not important to the Taliban and they seek to eliminate women [from public life]. We fight to restore women’s fundamental human rights by accepting risks. I know that the path I have chosen will either lead to my death or imprisonment; But I have pledged that I will not stop fighting until the last moment of my life,” she added.

This women’s rights activist emphasized that keeping silent and surrendering means “accepting the chain of slavery, and therefore death and imprisonment are far better than slavery.”

The future of Afghan women is concerning

Another women’s rights activist, who did not want to be named, also said that the Taliban detained her for several days adding that she was “physically and psychologically” tortured by Taliban members.

She said that the Taliban released her on surety and ordered her not to share details of her imprisonment with anyone, “otherwise, I would be responsible for anything that happened to my family.”

The Taliban has arrested a number of women’s rights activists since their takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021.

Many of the protesters would not, however, speak to the media after being released from Taliban custody. According to their relatives, the Taliban have taken written commitments from these women that they would not share details with the media.

Among the protesters who were released from Taliban custody recently were Zarifa Yaqoubi and Farhat Popalzai. Neither of them have so far spoken to the media about their ordeal.

A number of women’s rights activists, meanwhile, said that the Taliban have threatened, beaten up, and detained women since they returned to power.

Taranum Sayeedi, a member of the leadership of the women’s movement, told Amu TV that Afghan women have always faced violence, detention, forced marriage, kangaroo courts, and torture during Taliban rule, and have been deprived of all their basic and human rights.

“Women and girls are systematically marginalized. The Taliban do their best to marginalize women and imprison them at home. Unfortunately, during this period, the international community remained silent and did not take any serious action against these criminal acts of the Taliban,” Sayeedi said.

She added that women are being forced to confess in Taliban custody, then being released on surety and forced to stay at home.

Sayeedi raised concerns over the future of Afghan women under Taliban rule, “without the intervention of the international community, this impasse will not be broken.”

So far, the international community has not recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government.