updated on 22 September 2021
Can we trust the Taliban on women’s rights?
This is probably one of the most thought about questions among Afghan women. It is rather of irrelevance whether we can or not. Dealing with the Taliban is a ground-breaking reality for Afghan women and girls.
Many of us grew up hearing the global belief that education is a powerful tool. Yet, it is almost an astonishing realisation to notice what importance access to education holds. And perhaps, it is only after years of academia and internships that one truly acknowledges that education is a pivotal point in a woman’s life.
The road to empowerment and self-development has long been blocked for many Afghan women and young girls by fragile masculinity and power-hungry corrupted politicians. Over the past 20 years, the world has and continues to anchor stories of terror, pain and atrocities faced by Afghan women.
This article aims to highlight stories of resilience, hope, power and the unapologetic spirit of the brave women of Afghanistan. In this article, I try to pay tribute to all the countless brave women across Afghanistan who lost their lives and continue to fear their lives in quest of an autonomous life – their basic human right.
Set in the 70s, the land of Afghanistan did not witness an ounce of peace after the Soviet invasion. It is no shock that the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States has cost many Afghans their lives, complete destruction of their homes, disruptive wars, and future prospects. Perhaps, the most vulnerable group is of Afghan women who not only lost their loved ones, but their personal liberties, their dreams, ambitions and goals.
Everything just vanished. Instantly.
During a recent international media coverage of the Taliban takeover, what stood out for me was an ordinary Afghan woman on the streets of Kabul being interviewed by a BBC reporter. Amid a panicked crowd making their way to the Kabul airport hoping to flee the violent upheavals, I was unable to ignore a face of pure resilience and sheer courage. “This is my country; I don’t care what the US does. I don’t care what Pakistan will do. I am not scared. This is my country and I am not leaving my country”. And this, for me, set the tone for brave Afghan women.
A ray of hope
"I am now a story teller of my motherland who want to create and capture beauty in the middle of the war."
An example of resilience and hope is 18-year-old Shamsia Alizada, the daughter of a coal miner from Kabul. In 2020, she received the highest score out of 170,000 students in the annual national university entrance exam. Paving the road for women’s education, Shamsia’s excellent performance was celebrated across Afghanistan prompting praise from former president Hamid Karzai and foreign envoys including the US charge d’affaires. Addressing the takeover, Shamsia said: “I have some fears about the Taliban’s comeback… but I don’t want to lose my hope, because my dreams are bigger than my fear.”
The world has seen Afghanistan’s humanitarian conflict, disruptive war zones and the Taliban’s vision of a ‘veiled Afghanistan’.
However, Fatimah Hossaini, a fashion photographer has emerged from Afghanistan, like the rose that grew from concrete, to challenge the social norms of a controlled society. In a country where patriarchal notions have been forcibly imposed on women, Fatimah’s photography stands on par with social norms of Afghanistan.
She said: “I used to think about my motherland all the time without any reason, without any information or an obvious image. I decide to fly to my motherland on an autumn Saturday morning. I went there and everything changed for me.”
Digging deep into the stories of women of this land, the last two decades reflect strength, hope and resilience. While the global community views the Taliban takeover and fall of the government as the end for Afghanistan, it is crucial to remember we also witnessed countless untold stories of resilience, progress and strength of Afghan women, which I hope continues. It was heart-warming to learn of Airbnb’s offer to house 20,000 Afghan refugees free of charge and see the UK step up to help.
While greater powers, such as the UK, have introduced various regimes to accommodate and tackle the Afghan refugees, the question is how long will the women have to fight for their freedom until the laws are amended?
Find out more about the Afghan war via LCN News: The Law Society comments on the Afghanistan crisis.
Maliha Ahmed (she/her) is a legal assistant and a future trainee Immigration adviser at Good Advice UK. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.