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Dehumanizing women and eliminating them from society: International Women’s Day under the Taliban

The history of Afghanistan is one of discrimination and oppression. Misogyny and persecution of women is a historical black hole in Afghanistan that has swallowed the values, ethics, justice, and fairness of our society. On top of that gender discrimination is class and ethnic prejudice and abuse, effectively creating a multi-layered structure of bias and bigotry aimed at women. Being female has been criminalized, in an attempt to dehumanize women and remove them from society. The outlawing of women and femininity is an essential feature of life under the Taliban. We are now not only facing gender apartheid but rather total social elimination of women.  

 
Now, it is March 8, International Women’s Day, the second such day since the return of the Taliban. We need to reaffirm our commitment to gender equality and our pledge to burn the Taliban’s gender apartheid in the crucible of the struggle of women. We need to mobilize the solidarity of the international women’s movement to fight for the women of Afghanistan.  

We should start from ourselves: Afghan women have to set aside individual desires and interests in favour of building a collective movement with common goals. After the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, women activists paid a heavy price for the lack of solidarity and organization within society. Yet, at the same time, the fervour and dedication of women protesters show that women’s causes have the potential to ignite historical change in Afghanistan.  

  

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The enormous boldness and courage displayed by women challenging the Taliban regime showed what is possible, but also the struggles that remain in their struggle for equality and freedom. Today, more than 18 months after the Taliban’s return to power, female activists find themselves woefully ill-equipped to confront a regime whose most salient feature is the suppression and exclusion of women. With little material or intellectual and psychological support, they have endured bone-crushing violence.Their irrepressible capacity to fight and endure has been weakened by the imprisonment, torture, and sometimes exile of many of the movement’s pioneering figures.  

The only way to help the women activists as well as all women in Afghanistan is to both mobilize and coordinate our support and solidarity, both inside the country and throughout the world, into a unified fight for freedom, equality, and independence. This is a pivotal step in achieving the aspirations of the international women’s movement on the ground in Afghanistan.  

  

Why is the solidarity of Afghan women and women of the international community so important? In essence, the crisis of women’s rights in Afghanistan is a test for international women’s solidarity. And an opportunity.  

Afghanistan has been transformed into a prison for its citizens, especially women. Today, women and girls are systematically excluded from society, in violation of all the legal and moral values, norms, and laws. Taliban governance is in complete opposition to democratic values and a people’s right to self-determination. Women around the world should know that the exclusion of women from public and social arenas in Afghanistan is a precedent that is unlikely to remain limited only to Afghanistan. Yet, if such a misogynistic system is deemed “successful,” then it will become a model – a template – for other societies seeking to roll back women’s rights.  

The fight for Afghan women, who are targeted by systematic exclusion, is a struggle that affects every woman in the world. The threat is global. A coalition of international solidarity can galvanize world public opinion in favour of the women’s movement in Afghanistan while also isolating and weakening Taliban’s gender apartheid regime. If the voices of Afghan women are being silenced in Kabul, Herat, Badakhshan, Bamyan, Khost, Paktia, and Nuristan, then women around the world – from Beijing to Washington, Moscow to Islamabad, and Doha to Vancouver – should use their voices to continue the struggle.   

While international activists push their cause on the world stage, the central concern of Afghan women activists should be to coordinate, stand up, and fight for human rights with both solidarity and unity. In this way, one should take advantage of all legitimate and efficient methods, opportunities, and instruments. Solidarity among different sections of society will pave the way for a convergence and common struggle, effectively turning it into a bigger movement. Secondly, they should think about how they can bring the concerns of women in Afghanistan to the political agenda of the international community. 

  

The women’s movement should be able to become the vanguard of a sustainable and comprehensive rights-seeking movement in order to realize the ideals and goals of women in Afghanistan. To do this, they also need to establish a democratic Afghanistan, which is based firmly on human rights. There is no alternative: if we want to end the dehumanization of women and systematic removal of women from society, we have no choice but to stand and fight as one!  

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