Unresolved fate of activists Parsi, Parwana following Taliban arrest sparks concern

Friends and relatives of women’s rights activists Zholia Parsi and Neda Parwani who were taken into custody by the Taliban last month said they are increasingly concerned about their wellbeing as no details have been released on their condition or whereabouts.

Speaking to Amu, Parsi and Parwani’s relatives said despite continued appeals by them for information on the two women, nothing has been forthcoming.

Parwani was arrested by the Taliban, along with her four-year-old child and her husband, on September 19 from her home in Khair Khana in Kabul.

Parsi and her 21-year-old son were arrested on September 27 from Qala-e-Fatullah in Kabul.

Neither of the women, or their family members, have been heard from since and no information on their whereabouts or wellbeing has been issued by the Taliban.

Parsi has been an ardent supporter of women’s rights and led many demonstrations on the streets of Kabul – especially regarding the ban on education for women and girls, the ban on women working and the restrictive policies of freedom of movement against them.

Sources meanwhile told Amu that Parsi and her son are being held at different facilities and both have been tortured by the Taliban.

What we know about the two activists:

Zholia Parsi is 44 years old and is originally from Badakhshan province. She worked as a school teacher in Kabul for many years. After the Taliban seized control of the country in August 2021, Parsi joined a women’s rights movement called Junbish Khodjosh-e Zanan Mutariz Afghanistan. As a member, she led many protests against the Taliban.

Neda Parwani on the other hand is 27 years old. She was taken into custody eight days before Parsi and is an ardent women’s rights activist and a popular YouTuber. She has taken part and organized numerous peaceful protests against the Taliban’s policies that violate women’s rights.

She was taken into custody by the Taliban along with her husband and four-year-old child.

Sources close to the families of the two women told Amu on Wednesday that the Taliban handed over Parwani’s son to her parents but no details were shared about the child’s wellbeing or that of his mother or father. Their whereabouts also remain unknown.

Zahra Haqparast, the leader of Junbish Zanan Mutariz (Afghanistan Women’s Solidarity Movement), called on international human rights organizations to press the Taliban to release the two female protestors.

“Zholia Parsi and Neda Parwani, two comrades of mine are in the Taliban’s detention today. There has yet to be any information about them. I want the world to not recognize the Taliban,” she said.

Shamayal Tawana, another women’s rights activist voiced her concerns over the violation of women’s rights by the Taliban, saying that their misogynistic policies are contrary to Islamic Sharia as well as Afghanistan’s tradition and culture.

“Since the Taliban came to Afghanistan, all of their plans aim to restrict and deprive women in Afghanistan and one of their restrictions is the right to education,” she said.

Shakira Aslami, a member of the women’s protest association suggested that the international community needs to put pressure on the ruling government in Afghanistan to ease restrictions on women.

Aslami said the world needs to “bring changes to its policies towards the Taliban and put pressure on the interim government [Taliban].” She also said she “doesn’t think that the Taliban will be ready to ensure the rights of women and girls.”

The Taliban has detained many human rights activists and journalists over the past two years.

These activists include Nargis Sadaat, Ruqia Sayi, Farhat Populzai, Zainab, Zholia Parsi, Neda Parwani, Hajara Azad, Fardia Mohib, Hassina Sarwari and others. However many of them have been released after being in Taliban custody for months, where they were reportedly tortured and harassed.

However, Matiullah Wesa, the founder of PenPath, Zholia Parsi, Rasul Parsi and Neda Parwani are still being held by the Taliban.