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Defiant Afghan women as Taliban return

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Afghan women and girls who gained freedoms they could not have imagined 20 years ago fear losing them now that the Taliban is back in power.
On April 29, 2019, Afghan women attend a consultative grand assembly known as the Loya Jirga in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Afghan women and girls who gained freedoms they could not have imagined 20 years ago fear losing them now that the Taliban is back in power.

Taliban commanders have assured girls and women that they would have the right to work and study, but with conditions.

During the recent turmoil of Taliban advances throughout the nation, several women have been fired. Others are afraid that anything they say may not be true.

“Times have changed,” remarked Khadija, an Afghan religious school principal.

“No one can silence us, and if the internet goes down, the world will know in less than five minutes. They will have to accept who we are now.”

This resistance represents a generation of women who grew up being able to go to school, university, and work.

When the Taliban controlled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, its rigid interpretation of Islamic law forbade women from working and girls from attending school.

Women who left their houses had to conceal their faces and be escorted by a male relative. Those who disobeyed the Taliban’s religious police were sometimes publicly humiliated.

When it became apparent that foreign forces would be leaving Afghanistan in the next two years, Taliban officials assured the West that women would have equal rights under Islam, including work and education.

In his first news conference since taking Kabul on Sunday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed women will have access to education, health care, and jobs and be “happy” under Sharia rule.

Regarding women in the media, Mujahid said it will rely on the new Kabul government’s regulations.

On Tuesday, a female presenter from Tolo TV interviewed a Taliban spokesperson live.

Forced out of a job

Pashtana Durrani, 23, was skeptical of Taliban assurances.

“So they must act. They don’t do that anymore “she said Reuters, referring to schooling for females.

“Then I’ll add additional books to [an] online library. If they restrict the internet, I will send books. So, if they restrict instructors, I will establish an underground school.”

To prove their dedication to equal rights, some women say the Taliban should offer females political and policymaking positions.

Malala Yousafzai expressed grave worry about the situation in Afghanistan.

The fear of not knowing what their lives would be like is shared by a number of Afghan campaigners, Yousafzai told BBC Newsnight.

Unicef voiced cautious hope about cooperating with Taliban leaders, noting their early support for girls’ education.

It has met with new Taliban leaders in newly captured towns including Kandahar, Herat, and Jalalabad.

“We are hopeful based on continuing talks,” Mustapha Ben Messaoud, Unicef’s head of field operations in Afghanistan, told a UN briefing.

Human rights are being “chilled” under the Taliban, according to UN head Antonio Guterres.

According to Reuters, Taliban militants entered a commercial bank office in Kandahar in early July and forced nine women to leave because their occupations were considered improper. Male relatives were permitted to replace them.

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