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“Taliban have not changed,” warn Afghan women

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — They have benefited the most from the international presence after the fall of the Taliban in 2001. They are also those who have the most to lose. In Kabul, Afghan women see with as much fear as hope the prospect of a US-Taliban agreement.

For 18 years, they studied, worked, emancipated, in the capital as well as in the big Afghan cities, the campaigns remaining closed to any progress of the women’s rights. Today, they are afraid to return to zero if the insurgents come to power, while wishing the end of the violence.

– Suraya: “we do not want it to happen again” –

“We do not know what they have in mind for us,” worries Suraya Pakzad, 48, the founder of the NGO The Voice of Women. “Our rights have been sacrificed for peace with the Taliban.”

The insurgents “have not changed, they want their strict interpretation of sharia,” she says, while the Taliban have so far remained very secretive about the role they would give to women if they came back to power.

When they were at the head of Afghanistan, between 1996 and 2001, “all voices” were “silenced,” she said. “We do not want it to happen again,” said Suraya Pakzad, designated as the one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2009 by the American magazine Time.

Afghan women have had “remarkable successes” in both civilian and political life since 2001, she recalls. “I’m afraid that (they) are the first victims of a bad deal.”

– Zahra: “women will suffer” –

“If the Taliban come back, the women will suffer a lot,” Zahra, a visual artist from Kabul, predicts and worries. “Most, if not all, of those who work will lose their jobs,” she says.

Zahra paints murals on the anti-explosion walls that abound in the capital. She says she is “proud” and “happy” to practice a profession she loves despite the taunts she has suffered.

“People were telling me,” why should a woman work? A woman should stay at home, “she recalls.

But in a deeply patriarchal Afghan society, at the bottom of a UN ranking on gender equality, “the opinion of the population on women’s rights has improved,” says the artist .

Therefore, peace with the Taliban and deprivation of freedoms for women “is not worth it”. “We have struggled a lot to get our rights, we can not afford to lose them.”

– Haida: “a different generation” –

“Afghanistan in 1990 is radically different from that of 2019,” said Haida Essazada, 23, the director of the Afghan Youth Network. “My generation is a totally different generation.”

While women “work hard every day to change this society”, “if the Taliban do not accept it, we will not accept it either,” says the young woman with long blond hair.

“This is the big challenge for the Taliban,” she notes, “they will have to make big compromises to be part of this government, to be accepted by this generation.”

And to blow: “I’m afraid we do not want them any more because no one is ready to give in on the advances made over the past 18 years”.

– Marghuba: “go to work” –

Marghuba Safi, 40, has been running a company in Kabul since 2016 that makes soaps, creams and bags. She says she is “happy” with the prospects for peace, which are at the same time a source of “concern” for her.

“I am a single mother, I am responsible for the family and the only person to earn money, and my great concern is that the Taliban do not allow women like me to go to work.”

To set up her business, her “dream”, the businesswoman had to overcome many difficulties. “At first, I was told that it is not good for a woman to go out and talk with men,” she says. Inescapable prohibitions when the Taliban reigned.

Today, Marghuba Safi employs twenty people, all former drug addicts. “If I am not allowed to continue, it will be like an explosion within my family.”

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