Posted: on September 8, 2021:
Afghan women’s struggle has a long history. They have always played an active role in the fight against occupiers. One such example is Malalai Mawiwandi who is well-known for her role during the struggle for independence, and some consider her a reason for the victory of the Maiwand battle in 1880.
Soraya Tarzi, the wife of King Amanullah Khan, stood next to him for the reforms he introduced, and she was the first to come out in the public without covering her face. This paved the way for women to play a more active role in public life.
The invasion of Afghanistan by Soviet forces in 1979 saw women come to the streets and demonstrate against the occupiers. They played their role in the resistance against the soviets. Women were confined to the four walls of their houses from 1992–96, when the Taliban were ruling Afghanistan, and many activists had fled the country during the civil war but were actively working against the Mujahideens in Pakistan and elsewhere.
The Taliban came to power easily after the civil war and controlled most of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Women were beaten for simply wearing white shoes or laughing loudly, and were sometimes stoned to death. They were invisible in public life. It felt as if Afghanistan was only a men’s country and women didn’t exist.
The United States and NATO invasion paradoxically brought some changes for women, like being able to have access to education and employment. Afghan women started to have representatives in parliament, and women’s rights groups and civil society flourished. Women started to be visible in public life, from being ministers to governors, directors, to army and police officers. The demand for better participation in political and public spheres grew.
On August 15, the Taliban entered Kabul without any resistance as the former president had fled. The city was vacant the next day as everyone feared for the worst, but a group of five young Afghan women came out and defied the Taliban.
This was the start of demonstrations against the Taliban. The young activists, who were mainly university students, demanded equal rights and participation in political and public sectors. Soon, this protest was followed by a protest in Herat city. Around 60 students, activists, teachers and government employees came out and chanted, "Don't be afraid, we are together". They also had a declaration that stated that educational, political and economic deprivation of women is a symbol of tyranny, discrimination and violence. They said: “We cannot accept a system that wants to eliminate us and ignore our rights.”
The next day, Kabul witnessed another protest, and women came out and demanded equal rights. Soon this protest was followed by another protest, where they chanted, "Afghan women will not accept confinement and long live democracy, justice, and freedom".
People in Nimroz, a province in the south-west of Afghanistan, woke up to the protest of women asking for their share in power. In a protest, the women in Mazar city stated that exclusive government without the participation of women had no meaning. They also chanted: "We will not wear chadri [burqa]" and "A city with one gender stinks". They also demanded their rights and freedom in every sphere of life.
This is the first wave of protests in different cities of Afghanistan. These protests will most likely continue as the Taliban have already stated that women cannot be in decision-making positions and will have rights within Sharia.
The Taliban do not quite realise that the last time they were in power was 20 years ago and the women — especially the new generation of young Afghans — will not bow to their brutalities and will fight for their rights.
[The daily Jeddojehad [Struggle], a left-wing, online Urdu-language daily in Pakistan, is posting reports from Kabul. Filed by Yasmeen Afghan [not the author's real name], these reports depict a picture of life from inside Kabul and cover what is often ignored in the mainstream media. For a wider circulation, these reports are translated into English.]