Hidden Afghan library for women defies Taliban ban

Kabul, Sep 13 (EFE).- Several shelves full of books and a table tucked away inside a basement under the busting streets of Kabul have become a weapon against the Taliban regime’s oppression of women, with the small library helping the girls who are unable to go to school due to a government ban.

After preventing girls from accessing secondary schools and colleges for over a year after seizing the country, the Taliban made the ban on their education official on Sep. 18.

Dozens of women kept gathering for street protests against the ban despite the fear of retaliation by the Islamists, some of them even facing arrest and torture, before opting for a change in strategy.

“We decided to do something ourselves instead of waiting for the international community or any other body to do something for our rights, and we established the library,” Zholia Parsi, a leader of the Spontaneous Movement of Afghan Women, told EFE.

The idea was circulated on social media and soon books started arriving, contributed by social activists, students, writers, poets and friends.

Thus, the Zan library (women’s library) was born, with a collection of over 2,100 books at its disposal already, according to Parsi.

She insisted that allowing women to access knowledge was another act of rebellion, as Afghan girls refused to wait for foreign help or for the Taliban to change their mind.

“This is also a kind of protest against banning girls’ education to show the Taliban and the international community that we, Afghan girls and women, need education and participation in public life and we will try to help each other in this tough time,” the activist said.

As women have also been banned by the Taliban from working in public places, the library has been forced to function clandestinely, just like women’s protests have been taking place indoors to avoid repression.

Parsi is sure that the library would be denied permission, and the authorities have not been informed of its existence.

In a country ravaged by two decades of war and international sanctions, the project is facing a shortage of funds, among other difficulties.

Although a nonprofit has paid the premises’ rent for the first three months, “we have more expenses for managing the library and extending it to other provinces as well,” said Parsi, appealing for donations to help the initiative.

Another activist, Laila, said that the world had been deceived by the Taliban, who initially pledged to govern differently from their previous regime between 1996-2001, when they had banned women’s education and restricted them indoors.

However, after one year of Taliban rule, these promises have proved to be false.

“They are not changing, (…) we lost everything and there is no future for us except darkness,” she told EFE, adding that the Taliban governed “only for their slaves” and not for the people.

“Only we can feel the pain and the disappointment, it is hard to believe that for one year we have not had access to work and education. An Afghan girl is banned from education for more than one year, so can you see anything in our future?” Laila implored.

The activists berated the international community for tits lack of action, with Parsi saying that they were asked to be patient by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan during meetings, even as the body continued dialog with the Islamists.

On Monday, the UN special rapporteur for Afghanistan Richard Bennet openly criticized the women’s situation under the Taliban regime, expressing concern over the closure of secondary schools for girls in 24 of the country’s 34 provinces, forcing around 850,000 Afghan girls to drop out. EFE


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