Hours after the Taliban disrupted women’s protest at gun points in Kabul today, the group announced their provisional government that does not include women. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs did not appear on their list of ministries and is most likely to be abolished. A new ministry was added to the list – the Ministry of Virtue and Vice that the Taliban had during their ruling in the 1990s which was notorious for enforcing their edicts on the people.
Since the Taliban takeover of the government, Taliban announced that women cannot work in high ranking posts in the new government, women as civil servants were ordered to stay home until further notice, and co-education has been banned in public and private universities. The universities opened yesterday with classes segregated by gender. Just like when the Taliban was in power in the 1990s, this time as they were taking each district and province, they banned music once again as well.
Despite the fluid and uncertain situation and at grave risks to their lives, Afghan women have held protests and marches for several days starting in Herat, Kabul, and today expanding to Mazar-e-Sharif in the north of the country too. Afghan women are demanding their equal rights be preserved, their achievements of the past 20 years be built upon, and that without women’s meaningful participation, the government cannot function.
Today, another massive protest was held in Kabul against Pakistan’s interference in Afghanistan after the head of Pakistani intelligence agency visited Kabul to meet with the Taliban leadership. According to different accounts of individuals from the protest, thousands of women demonstrated against the visit and interference of Pakistan in Afghanistan. Some Afghan men joined the march to the embassy of Pakistan as well. Heavily armed Taliban broke up the demonstration today as well by shooting their guns into the air.
Similarly in Kabul, as women marched towards the Presidential Palace and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in their protest on September 4th, Taliban fired their guns into the air, beating up women and injuring one on her fore head. Taliban also used tear gas against the protesters. Some women protestors shared videos in which women were not allowed by the Taliban to join the protests. They were guarded at a parking lot by the Taliban.
Unlike the 1990s, the Taliban faces a resolute, better connected, and more informed public, especially the women who are determined to continue to fight for their rights. On September 4, in one of the first protests, Taliban whipped and lashed women by an electric cord as they were marching on the streets of Kabul, demanding representation and equal rights. The next day the women were out marching again. The barbarity of flogging people in public appears to be the same, as it was in the 1990s.
Afghan men and women as well as those outside the country have been amazed at the courage of Afghan women protesting in the face of heavily armed Taliban forces. Many social media accounts applaud the bravery of Afghan women for standing up for their rights at a time when they are told to stay put in their homes. During this difficult transition, one that many still wish it was simply a bad dream, the Afghan women have shown that they will not stay silent and will continue to demand their rights.
While life remains uncertain and difficult for all Afghans, especially women as they once again fight for their existence, it is clear for now that Afghan women are determined, on their own, to continue their fight to march forward and not go back to a time when they were confined to their homes, with no rights to education, employment or political representation.