‘We will fight until we take back our rights’: The struggle for women’s equality in Afghanistan

Mahboba Amini (not her real name), a women’s and education rights activist in Afghanistan, shares her story with Sky News.
March is Women’s History Month and 8 March is International Women’s Day, when the world recognises the cultural, political, social, and economic achievements made by women – and reflects on the struggle for women’s rights around the globe.

This is Mahboba’s story.
While the world, feminists and women’s rights activists celebrate Women’s History Month, for Afghan women around the world it will be a month to renew our commitment to our fellow Afghan women and tell them that we won’t give up.
We will fight until we take back our rights and hold the leaders of the regime accountable for the crimes they have been committing against women in Afghanistan.

Image: Two Afghan women. Pic: Reuters
“If there was no woman, there would be no world. There would have been no sign of Adam’s children.”
Before the former government collapsed, every year during March we would listen to this extraordinary lyric by an Afghan lady at events which celebrated Women’s Day.
The words of this poem are the truest words. How would it be possible to have a world without women?
If there were no women the leaders of the regime would never exist. So why do they torture women and abuse them, humiliate and discriminate against them?


Image: A man carries a woman on his motorcycle in Herat. Pic: AP
Yesterday, when I was in an online class, listening to a lecture, suddenly I felt I couldn’t breathe.
I tried to be calm and take deep breaths. However, the more I was trying to breathe the less I was able to.
While I was practising breathing more slowly, I began to cry. I felt so bad about it, because I had no idea why I was crying.
I asked for my sister’s help. To make me feel better, she said: “Let’s go to a restaurant”. But we remembered that women are banned from restaurants; then she said: “Let’s go to a beauty salon to see other women and talk with them”.
But there were no beauty salons in this neighbourhood as the regime closed them.
Fearless generation
I have not left the house in weeks. With my sister, I was trying to find a way to get some fresh air but it seemed impossible.
We thought we’d go out for a walk but, as we were alone, we needed to have a male chaperone with us.
And the fear of being arrested by Taliban fighters for an improper hijab or any other pointless reason stopped us from leaving the house.
My sister said that when her husband came back from work in the evening, she would ask him to take us outside.
He took us to the city in his car and my sister connected her phone to listen to some happy music. I felt better but her husband turned it off as we were approaching a Taliban checkpoint. He constantly warned us to cover our hair.
My sister looked at me and I didn’t feel better, so she asked her husband to go to an amusement park.
Her husband said: “You know that they won’t allow you but you can ask again.”

Image: Taliban soldiers on the second anniversary of the fall of Kabul. Pic: Reuters
My sister said: “Please, one time, please. I pray that a miracle happens and they allow us in.”
We went to the park’s entrance and a Taliban member with a gun stopped us and told us: “Siah sar (women) are not allowed. Only you (the man) can enter and go there.”
Even with my sister’s prayers there was no miracle.
The next day I spoke to my friend and she told me that I’d had a panic attack.
The name was new to me and made me scared because I always tried to protect my physical and mental health.

Image: A woman leaves an underground school in Kabul. Pic: AP
After my friend explained more about it, I was happy that it was that and that I hadn’t suffered a worse illness under such huge stress, anxiety and depression.
I asked my friend to give me advice on what to do to prevent this from happening again, because now is not the time to give up, to be ill and worry about the depression that I’m struggling with, like millions of other women in the country.
I read and followed her advice – to protect myself and be strong.
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Right now so many people need me to contribute. My fellow Afghan women need me. They need people who are strong and are not scared to give them hope that we are fighting for them and will bring back their freedom and rights, and the good days will come again.

I, like the women from my generation, am strong and fearless, because we grew up in the war. We weren’t scared of the sounds of guns and bombs.

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Taliban targeting former soldiers

We saw they bombed schools and we went anyway. They attacked our university but we refused to stop studying for our dreams.
Every day there were attacks everywhere, bombs or suicide attacks, but we left the house and worked hard and followed our goals.
Fighting without guns
We survived the last two decades because we have all the courage and bravery of all the national and international forces who were fighting the Taliban.
We have been fighting without guns but with our words and voices.
Since the very first days that the Taliban seized power in Kabul we chanted “education is our right” and faced gunfire from the Taliban.
We weren’t scared and again we came to the street and chanted “work, bread, freedom”. They ran behind us and arrested us.

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Afghan quake reduces buildings to rubble

When the regime wouldn’t allow us to protest in the streets, we started to protest in our homes.
We worked tirelessly and one of our achievements is that no country recognises the Taliban’s brutal regime as legitimate.

Source : Sky News