‘Won’t relinquish our rights’: Afghan women protest, say haven’t been allowed to work by Taliban

Published on Aug 20, 2021 01:48 PM IST

Afghan women working at a bank in Kandahar were asked to leave because their jobs were deemed inappropriate and they were allowed to be replaced by male relatives.

Taliban have made assurances that women will have access to education and jobs. (Reuters File Photo)
Taliban have made assurances that women will have access to education and jobs. (Reuters File Photo)
By | Written by Meenakshi Ray, New Delhi

Afghan women working in government and non-government organisations have said the Taliban will have to take them into account as the hardline Islamist group discuss the formation of a new regime in the country. Several women, including human rights activists, have said they have worked hard for their rights over the past two decades and cannot go back.

Taliban leaders made assurances that women would enjoy equal rights in accordance with Islam, including access to education and jobs. In the first press conference on Tuesday since capturing Kabul, spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said women would have rights to education, health and employment and that they would be "happy" within the framework of Sharia. "Taliban are committed to providing women with their rights based on Islam. Women can work in the health sector and other sectors where they are needed. There will be no discrimination against women." Mujahid, specifically referring to women working in media, said it would depend on what laws were introduced by the new government in Kabul.

However, several Afghan women journalists have said they were not allowed to work by the Taliban. Shabnam Khan Dawran, an anchor at RTA (Radio Television Afghanistan), said she could not enter her office. "I wanted to return to work, but unfortunately they did not allow me to work. They told me that the regime has changed and you cannot work," Dawran was quoted as saying by Tolo News.

Also read | Relative of DW journalist in Afghanistan killed by Taliban: broadcaster

Another journalist Khadija also said she was not allowed by the Taliban to enter her office. Khadija said that the Taliban told them that a decision will be made soon about their work. "We talked with our new director who has been appointed by the Taliban… There has been a change in the programmes. They broadcast their desired programs, there are no female presenters and female journalists," Khadija said, according to Tolo News.

Also watch | Kabul airport: US struggles to speed up evacuations amid Taliban chaos

Afghan women fought and achieved these rights and these values, Rahima Radmanesh, a women’s rights activist, said. "The people, the government, and any official who is to form a state in the future cannot ignore the women of Afghanistan. We will not relinquish our right to education, the right to work, and our right to political and social participation," Fariha Esar, a human rights activist, was quoted as saying by television channel Tolo News. "We have worked hard for twenty years and will not go back," said human rights activist Shukria Mashaal. 

“We do not want an imposed government. It must be based on the will of the Afghan citizens,” another human rights activist was quoted as saying by Tolo News. 

Also read | Al Qaeda hails Taliban for emancipating Afghans

Several women have said they fear the Taliban will reinforce their strict interpretation of Sharia and would not allow them to work and stop girls from attending school. The Taliban during their first regime in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 brutally enforced their diktats and women were beaten up publicly by the group’s religious police if they did not cover their face and stepped out of their homes without being accompanied by a male relative.

Also read | Former Afghan leaders warn Taliban non-inclusive government won’t be successful

Several reports have said that Taliban fighters walked into a commercial bank branch in Kandahar in July and ordered nine women working there. They were asked to leave because their jobs were deemed inappropriate and were allowed to be replaced by male relatives, according to Reuters.

UN chief Antonio Guterres has warned of "chilling" curbs on human rights under the Taliban and mounting violations against women and girls.

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