By Amos Chapple
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
October 22, 2021
Locals say a protest that took place in Kabul on October 21 shows the increasing desperation of Afghans women, whose freedoms have been stripped away by the Taliban since the hard-line Islamists seized power on August 15.
Photographs taken by several news agencies on October 21 captured a high-risk protest in Kabul that ended in violence as the Taliban stopped the women marchers and attacked journalists covering the event.
A woman journalist in Kabul, whose name is being withheld for security reasons, told Gandhara that the October 21 protest is a sign of women rapidly running out of options after the Taliban stripped them of their freedoms. “Some families have no son or their father is really weak or they have lost their husbands in suicide bombs,” she explains. “Some women have the responsibility of their families on their shoulders.”
High-school girls have been kept out classes for more than a month, and many women have been banned from returning to work since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in mid-August.
“Even though they know [the protest] is a huge risk, the women have no choice,” the Kabul journalist told Gandhara. “Because they can’t see their family suffering, so the only option is to take action even if that means the Taliban eliminates them. Because women here have already lost what they had, like their job, access to education. Right now they have nothing left so they wanted to show the world that they wouldn’t be quiet.”
The women’s march was allowed to continue for around 90 minutes before the Taliban began attacking journalists covering the event.
Another local in Kabul who saw coverage of the protest shared online told Gandhara that when Taliban members attacked the press they used shocking, sexually explicit language as they chased and beat the journalists.
He says the atmosphere in the Afghan capital is one of increasing gloom as the Taliban cracks down on even children in the street. On October 22, he says, members of the Taliban attacked three boys playing the popular mobile game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, slapping the children and seizing their phones, calling the game “haram” or forbidden under Islam.
One of the protest organizers, Zahra Mohammadi, told AFP, “My message to all girls and women is this: Don’t be afraid of the Taliban, even if your family doesn’t allow you to leave your home. Don’t be afraid. Go out, make sacrifices, fight for your rights.”
“This time, women prefer to die than live like slaves or prisoners,” the unnamed local woman told Gandhara, adding, “When I see this [protest] I am really happy because I see if my family needs my help and I’m a young woman who is able to then I will not just sit down and watch my old father die or my mother suffer. For sure I will stand, even if they kill me.”