Before the Taliban’s dramatic takeover, several prominent Afghan women and women’s rights activists warned of the Taliban’s suppression, atrocities, misogyny, and its terrible effect on the lives of Afghan women.
No one believed them. After one year, we are witnessing brutal destruction. The Taliban restricts women’s freedom, education, social participation, and opportunity to move around and work. The Taliban violates women’s and girls’ rights most grossly. Wome
n and girls who experience violence at home or in close relationships cannot escape this because there is no longer a system that can protect and support them. The country is hit by poverty and an economic and humanitarian crisis. The situation for people is desperate. The number of children and forced marriages is increasing.
The new report from Amnesty International, published on 27 July, shows that the Taliban have deprived millions of Afghan women and girls of their right to safe, free, and dignified lives. Their arbitrary laws and policies oppress and discriminate against women and girls in almost every aspect of their lives. Women protesters, the only group that has dared to protest against the Taliban’s brutal rules, have been arrested, disappeared, and tortured. They have been detained for “moral corruption.”
Unfortunately, the findings in this report are nothing new to us, who fight for Afghan women’s rights and are in contact with them on a daily basis. Since the Taliban took over, I have been in contact with several girls and women in various provinces, including Kabul, Kunduz, Balkh, Mazare Sharif, Paktika, Logar, and Jalalabad. Most tell of the Taliban’s atrocities and how they systematically try to remove women from every sphere
The question here then becomes, what can we do? It may seem as if we cannot do anything, as if Afghanistan is too far away and Afghan women are too strange to us to take a stand for their rights!
Negotiations with the Taliban and their seizure of power have already sent a dangerous signal to other terrorist groups: if they continue with their acts of terror and killing innocent people, they will get both power, recognition, and “Red Carpet” treatment. Maybe even a trip to a European country in a private plane! This has boosted their confidence, which can be very dangerous for the whole world in the long run. We should not let history repeat itself. We must not allow Afghanistan to become a safe haven for terrorists again.
When it comes to Afghan women’s rights, there are hundreds of examples of Afghan- Norwegian women in Norway who have shown that when we get opportunities to educate ourselves and develop, we flourish and contribute back to society in the best possible way. Moreover, no woman is free until all women are free. All men and women who believe in equality must support women in Afghanistan and not leave them alone! We must stand in solidarity with them.
But how can we do that?
In democratic countries like Norway, fortunately, the people have the power. We can put pressure on the authorities, which can pressure the Taliban. In cooperation with international organizations, UN member states, and the UN Security Council, the Norwegian government can develop and implement a strategy that pressures the Taliban to allow Afghan women to live a free and dignified life.
If the Taliban does not do so, then consequences and targeted sanctions such as travel bans must be imposed on them. The Taliban must be held accountable for their inhumane treatment of girls and women in Afghanistan. Amnesty International also encourages this!
Today, the Taliban use Afghan girls and women as a tool to be able to negotiate with the international community and states that support them to get recognition as a legitimate government. So let’s stand together against terrorists and with Afghan women who have been systematically discriminated against, disempowered, and deliberately removed from decision-making processes. Let’s stand with them, so they feel empowered and continue the fight against this systematic injustice and end it once and for all!
[ Writer SONIA AHMADI is the CEO and Founder at Afghan-Norwegian Women for Change Research Advisor at NTNU]
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