What became of the Taliban-fighting women?

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By Creative Media News

  • Afghan women protest Taliban restrictions
  • Protesters face violence, imprisonment, threats
  • Activists forced to confess, cease protests

Initially, some Afghan women defied the new rules by taking to the streets to protest after the Taliban restricted their ability to work, learn, and go out in public.

However, the Taliban’s complete force was soon felt by the individuals who gathered in the capital, Kabul, and other major cities to demand “food, work, and freedom.”

Protesters were subjected to physical violence, imprisonment, and even being threatened with death by stoning.

We interviewed three women who opposed the Taliban government’s efforts to impose restrictions on women’s freedom following their takeover on 15 August 2021.

Marching through Kabul

Zakia’s life began to unravel when Taliban militants seized control of Kabul on 15 August 2021.

She had been the primary source of income for her family prior to the Taliban’s return to power; however, she was promptly terminated upon the takeover.

More than a year later, in December 2022, Zakia (who is using a pseudonym) participated in a protest, which was her initial opportunity to voice her frustration regarding the loss of her right to education and employment.

Protesters were en route to Kabul University, which was selected for its “symbolic significance,” when they were halted prior to their arrival.

When the Taliban armed police put an end to Zakia’s brief rebellion, she was uttering slogans at a high volume.

She recalls that one of them pointed his pistol directly into my mouth and threatened to kill me immediately if I did not stop talking.

Fellow demonstrators were bundled into a vehicle, as Zakia observed.

I objected. My limbs were being twisted, she claims. I was being pulled by the Taliban, who were attempting to load me into their vehicle, and other demonstrators who were trying to free me.

Ultimately, Zakia was able to flee; however, the events of that day left her traumatized about the future.

“Violence was not taking place behind closed doors any more,” according to her; “it was taking place on the streets of capital Kabul in full public view.”

Arrested and assaulted

Mariam (not her actual name) and 23-year-old student Parwana Ibrahimkhail Nijrabi were among the numerous Afghan protesters who were apprehended subsequent to the Taliban regime’s takeover.

Mariam was apprehensive that she would be unable to support her family when the Taliban implemented regulations that limited women’s employment opportunities, as she was a widow and the solitary breadwinner for her children.

In December 2022, she participated in a demonstration. She attempted to flee after witnessing the apprehension of her fellow protesters, but she was unable to do so in time.

“I was forcefully pulled out of the taxi, they searched my bag and found my phone,” she said.

She claims that one of the Taliban officials struck her so forcefully that she believed her eardrum had ruptured when she declined to provide them with her passcode.
After that, they reviewed the recordings and photographs on her phone.

She claims that they became enraged and seized me by yanking my hair. They seized my hands and legs and threw me into the rear of their Ranger.

Mariam continues, “They were extremely violent and repeatedly referred to me as a whore.” A black sack was placed over my head, and I was unable to breathe. They also handcuffed me.

Parwana, in conjunction with a group of her peers, resolved to protest the Taliban a month later by organizing numerous marches.

However, their actions were promptly met with retribution.

Parwana states, “They began torturing me immediately after they apprehended me.”

She was compelled to sit between two male armed guardians.

When I declined to remain seated, they relocated me to the front, draped a blanket over my head, and instructed me not to move. They also pointed the pistol at me.

Parwana began to experience a sense of “weakness and like a walking dead” in the presence of numerous heavily armed men.

“My face was paralyzed from the repeated slaps.” I was so frightened that my entire body was shaking.

A life of incarceration

Mariam, Parwana, and Zakia thoroughly comprehended the potential repercussions of public protest.

Parwana asserts that she never anticipated that the Taliban would “treat her like a human being.” However, she maintains that her treatment was still shocking.
Her initial dinner in jail took her aback.

She reports, “I felt a sharp object scratching the roof of my mouth.” Upon examination, I discovered that it was a nail, which caused me to vomit.

In the succeeding meals, she discovered hair and stones.

Parwana claims that she was informed that she would be stoned to death, which resulted in her crying herself to sleep at night and having dreams about being stoned while donning a helmet.

The 23-year-old was incarcerated for approximately one month on charges of promoting immorality, prostitution, and the dissemination of Western culture.

Mariam was detained in a security unit for an extended period, during which she was subjected to interrogation while wearing a black bag that obscured her face.

She recollects that she could hear a number of individuals, one of whom would kick her and inquire as to who had paid her to organize the protest. The other individual would strike me and ask, “For whom do you work?”

Mariam claims that she informed her interrogators that she was a widow in need of employment to support her children. However, she claims that her responses were met with additional violence.

Acknowledgement and pardon

Parwana and Mariam were both liberated separately as a result of the intervention of human rights organizations and local elders, and they are currently not residing in Afghanistan.

Both claim that they were compelled to sign confessions that acknowledged their guilt and pledged not to participate in any future demonstrations against the Taliban.

Additionally, their male relatives executed official documents that stipulated that the women would refrain from participating in any future demonstrations.

We presented these allegations to Zabihullah Mujahid, the senior spokesman of the Taliban government. He verified that women protesters were apprehended, but he denied that they were subjected to inhumane treatment.

Several of the women who were apprehended were engaged in activities that were detrimental to public safety and the government, according to him.

He refutes the women’s account and denies the use of torture: “Our medical teams have also approved the food in all of the Islamic Emirate’s prisons, and there is no beating.”

Scarcity of fundamental amenities

Ferishtah Abbasi of HRW stated that the Taliban employ a variety of forms of torture and sometimes compel their families to pay for these demonstrations. Additionally, they may imprison them with their children in appalling conditions.

Amnesty International researcher Zaman Soltani, who conversed with numerous demonstrators subsequent to their release, asserted that prisons were devoid of fundamental amenities.

Soltani stated that detainees are not provided with adequate and nutritious food, health and safety concerns need to be addressed, and there needs to be a heating system in place during the winter.

Desiring an ordinary existence

The Taliban announced that women were permitted to continue attending school and working at the time of their takeover, provided that they adhered to Afghan culture and Sharia law.

They continue to maintain that the prohibition of girls’ education beyond the sixth grade is only temporary. Still, they have yet to make a definitive commitment to the reopening of girls’ secondary institutions.

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When she returned to Afghanistan, Zakia seized another opportunity to educate young females by establishing a home tuition centre. Additionally, this was unsuccessful.

“They perceive a threat in the regular gathering of young women in a particular location,” she explains, her voice tinged with melancholy. “The Taliban were able to achieve their objectives.” I am imprisoned within my residence.

She continues to interact with her fellow activists; however, they are not currently organizing any demonstrations. They occasionally issue statements on social media platforms under a pseudonym.

When asked about her aspirations for Afghanistan, she surrenders to weeping.

“I am unable to take any action.” She asserts, “We are no longer present; women are excluded from public life.” “All we wanted was our basic rights, was it too much to ask?”

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