How Afghan women are resisting Taliban

How Afghan women are resisting Taliban

Many Afghan women are fighting back against the Taliban and restrictions on education, movement and clothing

Even in unfavourable circumstances, many Afghan women are fighting back against these constraints and the Taliban. They want to fight rather than surrender. Credit: Reuters/ Danish Siddiqui

Despite the recent attacks on Kandahar airport, threats of the Taliban offensive, fear of kidnapping and murder, ordinary women and men in Afghanistan continue to fight and pursue their educational and professional journey.

In some areas controlled by the Taliban, such as Kandahar, Ghor, Kunduz and Gazni, restrictions have been imposed on women, including their education, movement, clothing and veil. But even in such unfavourable circumstances, many Afghan women are fighting back against these constraints and the Taliban. They want to fight rather than surrender.

A group of women from the Ghor province have started learning to handle firearms. These women came out on the streets with assault rifles and shared their photographs on social media. The intensity of violence in the area has increased. And women are preparing themselves to fight against attackers and support their family members. In the male-dominated Afghan society, it would be humiliating for the Taliban commanders to be facing women in a battleground. However, series of attacks have been done on women earlier.

The US and NATO forces plan to leave the country by the end of August 2021. Herat airport, which was under the control of the defence forces of Italy, has already been handed over to the national security personnel. The departure of the western military has created a vacuum, leading to both the Taliban and the government forces keen to have the upper hand. The Taliban claims to have captured new territories, while the spokesperson for the government forces, General Ajmal Omar Shinwari, has threatened a push back to the Taliban. He mentioned an edge for the security forces as they eliminated 1500 Taliban fighters in the third week of July. Yet, the incidence of violence has not come down. Thousands of families have left their villages and taken refuge in the cities to escape any brutality.

The Taliban has warned media groups that they will not tolerate the broadcast of any government advertisements against them. Several media groups, journalists, and artists have faced attacks and torture. Women journalists have been under constant threat. In June 2021, a famous anchor of TV channel Ariana news, Mina Kahiri, was killed by an improvised explosive device while commuting in her vehicle. In 2019, Meena Mangal, a former female TV journalist and cultural advisor, was shot dead in broad daylight in Kabul when she was waiting to get a taxi. Danish Siddiqui, an Indian journalist reporting in Kandahar, was shot dead by Taliban fighters on July 16. A few days later, a famous comedian from Kandahar, Nazar Mohammed, was also killed. He was tied to a tree and strangled to death. The Taliban have denied the killing of Nazar Mohammed, but his family blames the Taliban.

According to the Journalists Protection Committee, more than forty media establishments were closed in Afghanistan in 2019-2020 due to continued violence. Seventeen media personnel were murdered here in 2018, and five cases of journalists' murders were registered in 2019.

Last year a teenage girl, Qamar Gul, from the Ghor province made the news when her parents were shot dead by Taliban fighters. Sixteen-year-old Qamar Gul and her twelve-year-old brother Habibullah battled and killed three Taliban attackers. Bibi Ayesha Habibi, known popularly as Commander Kaftar, was part of the Northern Alliance, is a known name in Afghanistan. She fought with the Russian forces in the 1980s and with the Taliban in the 1990s. When ninety per cent of Afghanistan fell under the Taliban, she led a team of fighters. The Taliban fighters attacked twice but could not capture her village in Baghlan. Salima Mazari, a district governor from Balkh, is also known for fighting the Taliban. Afghanistan has a long list of brave women, and now many girls are adding their names to the list.

The Taliban wants to control Afghanistan using the language of war. Their stand on women has not changed in the last two decades. But conservative rules are unwelcome in many provinces. Girls do participate in sports and cycling. In some places, women are not expected to cover their entire face and traditionally wear only headscarves. They work in the fields and manage animals. The Taliban has asked girls not to attend classes, closed down girls' schools, ordered women not to leave their homes without a male guardian (mahram), and even banned women from gathering for weddings.

In their areas of influence, Taliban members are conducting house-to-house searches for those who have worked in the government of Afghanistan, the police, the media, and western companies. Millions are migrating from rural areas to cities and taking shelter in temporary refugee camps.

Common Afghanis are building solidarity with the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces and warlords opposing the Taliban. However, ultimately it is women who will face the brunt of this war most grievously.

(The writer is an expert on education in conflict zones and has worked in Afghanistan)