They stayed to fight the Taliban. Now the protesters are being hunted down

1 year ago 112

A period ago, Reshmin was engaged organising protests against Taliban regularisation successful online groups of hundreds of chap women’s rights activists. Now the 26-year-old economics postgraduate indispensable run clandestinely, dressing successful disguise and lone demonstrating with a prime few.

“If things proceed similar this, determination volition beryllium nary aboriginal for women successful Afghanistan. It’s amended if the aboriginal ne'er arrives,” says Reshmin, who spoke to the Guardian utilizing lone her archetypal name, which means “silk” successful Farsi, retired of information concerns. “Each clip we spell out, we accidental farewell due to the fact that we mightiness not marque it backmost alive.”

Since the Taliban’s lightning takeover of the state successful August, Reshmin and her younger sister person attended a flurry of protests successful Kabul, portion of nationwide demonstrations wherever Afghan women person hoisted signs demanding the close to acquisition and work, and chanted slogans specified arsenic “Freedom!” and “Eliminating women means eliminating quality beings!”

They beryllium to a cohort of Afghan women’s rights defenders who chose not to fly this summertime but stayed to tackle the Taliban’s clampdown connected their freedoms. Buoyed up by the past 20 years of planetary enactment and encouragement, they person staged pockets of protestation crossed Afghanistan, from quiescent parks to municipality thoroughfares. The Taliban person responded with violence, beating women with electric batons and detaining and torturing the reporters who covered the protests.

“The adjacent procreation volition beryllium brainwashed by the Taliban’s ideology, past it volition dispersed similar the Covid-19 virus. The satellite needs to wage attraction for its ain sake,” Reshmin says.

But planetary unit to clasp the Taliban accountable implicit the rights of women and girls is being ignored. A slew of overseas delegations, assistance agencies and donors, including from the UK, person consisted of all-male teams and lone “legitimises the Taliban’s patriarchal presumption of the world”, warned Heather Barr, of Human Rights Watch, warned this week.

Now, 2 months into Taliban rule, the activists accidental they are being hunted down. In caller weeks the Taliban person accelerated their crackdown connected women’s groups by infiltrating and intimidating them.

Activists described however connected respective occasions members of the Taliban appeared astatine a backstage code that was lone discussed connected closed chat groups connected societal media. Ahead of a caller protestation successful Kabul, Taliban constabulary called a radical of women connected their phones conscionable earlier they acceptable retired to enactment up posters, Reshmin says.

Heavily equipped  Taliban successful  service  stopping a radical  of women protesting successful  Kabul
The Taliban stopping a radical of women protesting successful Kabul 2 weeks ago. Several journalists were attacked arsenic they tried to screen the demonstration. Photograph: Bülent Kılıç/AFP/Getty

“The lone instrumentality they cognize is to soundlessness radical done creating fear,” says Mina, a assemblage prof and activist, who asked that a pseudonym beryllium utilized for fearfulness of retribution from the Taliban.

Zahra, different organiser successful Kabul, describes methods ranging from having women airs arsenic journalists to get idiosyncratic accusation from protesters to spreading rumours among activists that their fig had been shared with members of the Taliban.

“The Taliban cognize if they lash america connected the thoroughfare they’ll look atrocious and get criticised,” says Zahra, “but it’s casual to effort to dismantle women’s groups online.”

Zahra, who obtained her master’s grade successful municipality plan past year, was supervising the gathering of a women-only outdoor marketplace erstwhile the Taliban swept to power. The European-funded task has been abandoned and she present pours each her vigor into activism.

Last period the Taliban banned each demonstrations that bash not person authoritative approval, adding the request that slogans astatine the protests besides beryllium approved by the radical first.

Mina says this is simply a maneuver designed to exposure them. “They are trying to place immoderate of the progressive members of the women’s movement. This is however they unit them to submit,” she says.

Reshmin, who was protesting connected Kabul’s streets past week, says she volition not inquire the Taliban for support due to the fact that “that would mean we person accepted their regime”.

A pistillate   successful  a burqa sits successful  a country   of a hardly  furnished country   with her 5  young children and husband
Women are progressively confined to their homes since the Taliban takeover. Felvasa Fariba, 25, seen successful a burqa, struggles to provender her 5 children, arsenic her husband, Gulam Hassan, gets small enactment arsenic a time labourer. Drought has exacerbated rising levels of malnutrition. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty

Since the Taliban captured Kabul conscionable implicit 2 months ago, determination has been a cascade of miserable quality for Afghan women and hardly a time passes without their rights shrinking further arsenic they are dismissed from jobs successful authorities media, banned from astir different enactment and secondary school, barred from athletics and blocked from a now-obsolete strategy designed to support women from violence.

“We believed that Afghan women would not spell backmost successful time. We believed that our warfare against the Taliban would beryllium won,” says Roya Dadras, spokeswoman of the now-defunct women’s affairs ministry, which the Taliban took implicit arsenic the office of its draconian morality police. She spoke to the Guardian from Australia, wherever she sought refuge successful aboriginal October aft spending a period successful hiding successful Kabul.

Compounding this is the country’s dire economical situation: the notoriously bitter Afghan wintertime is approaching, and with the overseas assistance that powered the system inactive mostly suspended, 95% of Afghans are not getting capable to eat, the UN has warned.

The fig of pistillate activists connected the streets is decreasing, and the strain of trying to enactment a brave look connected their troubles is taking a toll connected their health. Taliban members severely bushed Reshmin’s sister astatine a protest, leaving her close manus unusable for a month, and her tegument present suffers from achy flare-ups.

Reshmin’s parent and 3 sisters started taking antidepressants respective weeks ago. Mina’s teenage daughter, whose acquisition stopped with the Taliban’s prohibition connected girls attending secondary school, became truthful stressed that she started to suffer her hair. Mina shared a photograph of the backmost of her daughter’s caput wherever ample areas of tegument are exposed.

In Nangarhar state successful the country’s east, wherever determination is little planetary media attraction than the Afghan capital, women’s rights protests person been violently breached up by Taliban members, says Rahmani, an activistic and erstwhile prosecutor. Several pistillate protesters were besides detained and tortured, she adds.

Fearful for her life, Rahmani has moved betwixt relatives’ homes successful caller weeks, bringing with her lone a fewer items of covering each time. “Activists cannot slumber soundly,” she says.

After spending the past period successful hiding with her hubby and 3 children, terrified that the Taliban would harm them, Mina and her household are trying to fly to a neighbouring country. She hopes to supply enactment to those inactive protesting. “I americium trying to assistance the women and girls who are scared, depressed and anxious. Some are reasoning astir suicide.”

Zahra Joya contributed to the reporting