Conflicts & War

Afghan refugee women demand action to avoid being ‘erased’ from society

By Carmen Muela Morales

Paris, Aug 14 (EFE).- Women in Afghanistan are “stripped of the most basic rights,” say Afghan refugees living in exile in France, who on the first anniversary of the fall of Kabul to the hands of the Taliban are urging the international community to do more so that they are not “erased” from society.

Shokria, an Afghan refugee, tells Efe that she hopes that European countries “take serious measures” to ensure that they are seen “as human beings”.

Some 80% of displaced Afghans are women and girls.

At the refugee reception center of the Cimade NGO in the Paris suburb of Massy, several Afghan refugees share their experiences ahead of the anniversary since the Taliban seized power on August 15, 2021.

Shokria, a 25-year-old literature teacher, lived through “very difficult” situations until she arrived in France earlier in February.

“When I was leaving Afghanistan, my students came to say goodbye. It was a very moving moment,” she recalls.

A month after the Taliban takeover, Shokria was forced to flee to Iran, where she stayed for four months under harsh conditions before she was able to leave the country.

Now, her main objective is to learn French and return to teaching, a profession she calls “very noble.”

“Why is there this silence if we have the habit of defending women’s rights?” the teacher asks, denouncing that they are “totally forgotten by the whole world.”

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), some 3.5 million Afghans have been internally displaced in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover and 2.7 million others have crossed into neighboring countries such as Pakistan and Iran.

They are the most displaced population group in the world, after Venezuelans.

The situation is extremely precarious in the country and has worsened after the worst earthquake in history hit the country in June, killing at least 1,000 people, according to UN figures.

The UNHCR estimates that at least 23 million Afghans – more than half the country’s population – suffer from extreme famine.

In a statement, Cimade secretary general Fánelie Carrey-Conte highlighted the importance of “accelerating the processes” of family reunification, which can be “very complicated.”

Eighteen-year-old Basira, another Afghan refugee being helped by the NGO, wants to study computer science to help other Afghans.

Her father, and later her brother, were threatened by the Taliban in Afghanistan, prompting the entire family to leave the country.

In France, Basira feels free.

“I can study, I can work, I can do whatever I want,” she says.

In Afghanistan, life for women became significantly complicated with the arrival of the Taliban.

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