A group of Afghan women took to the streets in Herat and Kabul over the past two days to protest their diminishing rights. The protests have sprouted as the Taliban continues to solidify its position as the ruling power in Afghanistan. The Taliban is reportedly announcing its new government later today, making the demonstrations about as timely as they could be.
Just after the protest became viral today, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen spoke with Fox News.
Shaheen stated, “There will be no issue about women’s rights.” Immediately after, Shaheen qualified the statement with, “But we should not be after changing each other’s culture as we are not intending to change your culture, you should not be changing our culture.”
“It is our right to have education, work, and security”
Group of Afghan women staged protest today in #Kabul to demand their right to work and education.
Taliban have banned many women from working outside their homes and girls from attending school, university.
Yesterday, similar demonstration broke out in western city of Herat. pic.twitter.com/ouYxrCCdtv
— Frud Bezhan فرود بيژن (@FrudBezhan) September 3, 2021
“It is our right to have education, work, and security,” chanted the group of around 50 demonstrators in Kabul. Members of an organization called the Women’s Political Participation Network comprised most of the protestors, and also helped to organize the display.
Treading just outside of Afghanistan’s Finance Ministry, the activists carried signs and shouted slogans demanding involvement in the Afghan government. Some are also calling for constitutional law in the country.
Some women in the protest held a sign saying, “No government can be long lasting without the support of women. Our demands: The right to education and the right to work in all areas.”
During the Taliban’s previous rule, protests in the capital were unheard of. Let alone those on behalf of women.
Previously under Taliban rule, women were confined to their homes, completely barred from leaving without a male companion. In some instances, women were publicly beaten for being outside without a counterpart of the opposite sex.
“Death is better than staying home and watching death gradually,” one protester told Afghanistan International. “The achievements and rights achieved in the last 20 years should not be lost by a setback,” she said, reportedly speaking only on the condition of anonymity.
Protest for a better Taliban 2.0
These protests happened in despite of the Taliban’s recent promises of a more humane groundwork for operating. During the Taliban’s original reign, from 1996-2001, they ensured that women were summarily excluded from public life; this protest aimed at preventing that from ever becoming the situation again.
Regardless of the Taliban’s claim to a more inclusive government this time around, they have only allowed female healthcare workers to continue working so far.
In an Aug. 24 news conference, Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid said that women should not go to work for their “own safety.” He also said that this measure is temporary, and that the pause would allow the Taliban to refine its measures for dealing with women.
In the same conference, Mujahid said that the temporary order was necessary because the Taliban soldiers “keep changing and are not trained.”
In March, despite the Taliban’s promises of ensuring women’s safety, three high-profile murders occurred. Each of these involved a female journalist being killed.
The Taliban denied any involvement in these murders. However, it is not a good look given that they all occurred as the Taliban began reinvigorating before officially taking over the country in August. If the Taliban desires even a shred of legitimacy, the first thing it has to do is diligently guarantee and uphold Afghan women’s right to autonomy and safety.