Conflicts & War

Afghan feminist rebels undeterred by Taliban

By Moncho Torres

Kabul, Dec 14 (EFE).- They first protested in the streets of Kabul, where they were beaten and arrested by the Taliban, but far from giving up, a group of Afghan activists for women’s rights have continued to demonstrate clandestinely.

The activists spoke to EFE’s team in a small basement in a neighborhood in the capital, asking for nothing to be carried that could identify them as journalists.

This was in a basement, where this reporter expected to find a handful of women sitting on a couch.

However, soon after, more women began to appear until there were about 20 and the excitement was palpable.

The women took great pains to hide any sign that could be used to identify the place, for example the Afghan flag placed outside.

The Afghan flag was taken down by the Taliban after their arrival in power on Aug. 15 and has become a symbol of resistance in the country.

The women then began to write their slogans on sheets of paper, a few of them in English such as “Aren’t we human?” but the majority in Dari.

At the forefront of the protest was Zahra Mohammadi, who blocked the door to prevent the entry of any unexpected visitors and remained vigilant throughout the event, which was recorded on video to share on social media to urge the international community to put pressure on the Islamists.

At first “we protested on the street, raised our voices, chanted for the freedom of women, called for justice…but we were repressed and surrounded by the Badree forces (the Taliban special forces), who arrested some of our colleagues and broke our phones. After that, we have changed our strategy for conducting protests and started protesting indoors in various areas,” she said.

Only one of the 20 protesters gathered at the scene chose to hide her face from the camera for fear of reprisals.

The rest were also fearful but preferred to show their faces in defiance of the Islamists.

Their demands are clear: they want to regain the rights they had achieved in the last 20 years since the fall of the previous fundamentalist regime in 2001, including the right to freely go to work or continue their studies.

Although the Taliban reopened schools in mid-September, they allowed girls to only return to primary schools.

“We are not the women of 20 years ago who sat at home, forced by the Taliban regime in their previous regime,” Mohammadi said.

Then a woman could only leave the house accompanied by a man of the family and was relegated to housework.

The best known face of this latest protest was Deeba Farhamand, founder and executive director of a local NGO that provides assistance to orphaned children and widows.

She told EFE that they were part of a spontaneous movement without political aims that has protested for their rights since Sep. 2, under the name, Afghan Women’s Unity and Solidarity Group.

This was their seventh closed-door protest, carried out “cautiously”, since some of the activists have been killed and many have received “threatening calls, messages from unknown numbers,” according to Farhamand.

They have “threatened us, sometimes requested our addresses, and acted as media,” she added.

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