Dug Their Heels In

“One war ended, but the battle to find a rightful place for Afghan women has started,” said Monesa Mubarez, one of the many Afghan women who dug their heels in and held to their rights tight as the Taliban government reclaim rule over Afghanistan.

When the Western armed forces came to the Islamic state two decades ago, women across the country won their freedoms, which also led them to secure a place in the workforce—an ambition the previous generation only dreamed of under the Taliban rule.

But now that the aggressors are back in reign, thousands of Afghan women were stripped from their hard-earned positions and reverted to their strictly conservative practices. Even secondary schools for girls were shut down, along with the established Ministry of Women’s Affairs, and the women working in the government were forced to resign.

“… we will raise our voice against every justice until the last breath,” Mubarez said, who brave arrest and possible assaults from Taliban members if it meant for her to keep fighting for her rights… their rights.

But as the Western troops left Kabul, closing the door to the twenty-year Afghanistan War, and moved on… these demonstrations could only go so far. Because let’s face it, without the Western-backed forces, these acts of resistance would be futile against the hardline Islamic Taliban movement.

Running up to the first anniversary of the Taliban’s resumption to power, Reuters reported how these women would arrange private gatherings as acts of defiance to discuss their rights, exchange experiences, and encourage people to join the cause. In other words, an indoor rally—and this kind of meetups are being repeated across the country, said UN Women in Afghanistan representative Alison Davidian.

two-afghan-women-in-kabul-photo-by-reuters
(Image source: Ali Khara/REUTERS)

“For many women across the world, walking outside the front door of your home is an ordinary part of life,” she told Reuters. “For many Afghan women, it is extraordinary. It is an act of defiance.”

Unlike Kabul, though, women living in more conservative regions can definitely not do such demonstrations and, in fact, can not even set foot outside their homes (for at least 78 km away) without a male chaperone.

Life Without Armed Forces From the West

Afghan girls and women aren’t only suffering from the comeback ruling of the Taliban government.

According to the United Nations, Afghans have suffered “a grave humanitarian crisis” since August 15 last year, with around 95 percent of the population going hungry. While this isn’t new, it is, by far though, one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

The already fragile economy of Aghanistan further spiraled down when the US withdrew its troops last year, followed by a restriction on the Afghan Central Bank assets and international sanctions that took place earlier this year.

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It is unfair, however, to blame the US for departing. The Afghanistan War is the most protracted campaign in American military history and probably the most expensive—not only in time and money but also souls of those who parted. But during the stay of the US armed forces, they didn’t only protect the Afghans; they also taught them, particularly, how to defend their country and spread modernization throughout the country. Moreover, with their presence, the life of many improved significantly, especially for women and girls who earned the freedom they had so long desired.

Regardless, the country “remains a tragedy, poor, unstable,” considering the years of trauma they endured from the brutality of the Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001, as well as being at the center of the war for two decades.

As soon as the Taliban pushed an offensive weeks before the US troops officially left the country, the Afghan military collapsed as soldiers fled or surrendered to the Taliban out of fear. All the billions of US spending to train and provide equipment for the Afghan army to hold off insurgents end up for nothing independently. They didn’t even last for a month, heck, for a week. President Ashraf Ghani deserted his post in a snap, letting the Taliban roll into the capital with little-to-no effort.

Continuation In Humanitarian Efforts

Nonetheless, the US and other Western allies continue sending humanitarian support with restrictions. As mentioned, the Taliban have been mistreating Afghan women and children, pushing international communities to 1) not recognize the new Afghanistan rulers and 2) cut off the country’s international assets. The new leaders have proclaimed that they will protect the rights of their citizens within their interpretation of Sharia, but we all know how that goes.

 

While women like Mubarez persist in their rights to education and work, some women have already conceded to the “new normal,” shifting to a job that is acceptable under the eyes of their now Islamic leaders to make ends meet.