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Afghan women activists plead for basic rights in their homeland

Afghan women activists including a feminist and a female NGO worker plead for basic rights as they step in to deliberate upon Taliban's present repressiveness that echoes their early regime. They urged the Taliban to allow women to work and study by staying firm to the promises they made.

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Afghan women activists plead for basic rights in their homeland as the Taliban increasingly excludes them from from public life in Afghanistan including education and government. However, some brave Afghan women came up and are determined to speak out despite the threat of retribution from the hardline Islamist group.

The first Taliban rule was notorious for their brutally oppressive rule from 1996 to 2001, when women were banned from going to school or work and only allowed to leave the house with a male chaperone. The Taliban have faced international censure for incrementally stripping away hard-fought freedoms for women.

But this time, as they took power, Taliban have pledged to show a moderate face and change their strict stance. They said that would respect women’s rights within the framework of Islamic sharia law, but many remain skeptical.

Read more: Taliban’s violent crackdown on protests kills four, UN

Afghan women activists deliberate on Taliban’s repressiveness

In Kabul — the city that has seen the most change over the past 20 years — some young women, such as activist Shaqaiq Hakimi, refuse to be forced into exile by a return to Taliban rule.

“I want to fight and regain the rights that they took from us. We don’t need to go to another country. This is our homeland,” she told AFP.

“If we are not forced to leave, then we won’t go anywhere.”

The Taliban claim that blocks on women returning to work or girls going to secondary school will be lifted once new systems are established.

But this is an echo of the early days of the last regime, which never allowed women to return.

NGO worker Farkhunda Zahidbaig, 21, described how Taliban fighters entered her office to tell management that women employees should leave.

“After this, our boss made the decision that the rest of us shouldn’t come to the office,” she said.

“Women want to have a profession, but… they can’t continue in their jobs. The Taliban have taken away their freedom to work.”

– ‘We’re afraid’ –

Shabana, who asked to not be identified, is fearful she will never find a job again.

This would leave the 26-year-old unable to provide for loved ones.

“I am very worried because I was the sole breadwinner of the family,” said the former employee of a Swedish organization. Sources tell that Afghan women in Kabul beg for bread following the takeover by the Taliban, who have stopped them from working.

Read more: Taliban pledge accountability, strive to present a moderate face 

Afghan women activists plead Taliban to fulfill their promises

Gains for women under the Western-backed government were largely confined to cities in the conservative country, but the Taliban have faced international censure for incrementally stripping them away.

In the face of that criticism, the group pledged Tuesday to allow girls to return to school “as soon as possible” but did not provide a timeframe.

Their all-male Afghan government has also shut down the former administration’s ministry of women’s affairs and replaced it with one that earned notoriety during their first stint in power for enforcing religious doctrine.

On top of the pressures of unemployment, women now fear going outside alone.

“We’re afraid that if we go out the Taliban might whip us or hit us,” said Shabana, who was travelling around Kabul with her father.

“We can’t even go to the bazaar alone.”

Hakimi said she would wait to see if the Taliban fulfil their promise to allow all Afghans to go back to work or school.

“I hope that they do just that.” Afghan women activists are not asking for something out of this world. They are pleading for those rights which the United Nations have deemed as inalienable that equate to their survival in the society.

Read more: Taliban announce male-dominated cabinet

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