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The Taliban is a regime of gender apartheid!

Several female activists in Cologne, Germany, have embarked on a 12-day hunger strike to advocate for the official recognition of the Taliban’s “gender apartheid” in Afghanistan. They insist that the voices of protesting women be amplified by both Afghanistan’s society and the international community and that financial support to the Taliban be severed as it is sustaining the group’s misogynistic regime. 

The Taliban have transformed Afghanistan into a prison, unparalleled in its cruelty and systematic gender-based and ethnic discrimination in human, legal, and social realms. Besides establishing a mono-ethnic administration, the regime has issued more than 50 decrees against women, effectively excluding women from public and social spaces. These decrees limit their freedom of movement, attire, behaviour, education, employment, access to healthcare, and also obstruct their pursuit of justice. 

Since the inception of the women’s protest movement after the Taliban regained power in 2021, women have been at the forefront of protests against the Taliban, fighting on behalf of all political and social factions in Afghanistan. These women confronted a heavily armed terrorist group while government officials contemplated escape, and other social factions remained disoriented and directionless. They have endured significant costs for their efforts, including being attacked, jailed, and killed. They have also continued their protests despite insufficient support from the people of Afghanistan and the international community.  

To be blunt, the women’s protest movement in Afghanistan is the only force that has significantly challenged the entrenchment of the Taliban regime. Despite brutal repression by the Taliban and inadequate domestic and international support, this movement stands as the cornerstone of public hope for triumph over the group and a shift in dynamics. The recent wave of protests by women in Cologne, Germany, gains meaning and importance under these circumstances. People in Afghanistan must not overlook gender apartheid or the dehumanization and removal of women from society.  

Thus far, the international community has only made symbolic gestures, such as issuing statements or inviting female leaders to international gatherings, without taking substantial action against the Taliban’s inhumane policies. Financial aid, ostensibly for humanitarian purposes, continues to arrive in Afghanistan, yet all too often it fails to reach those genuinely in need, and instead is funnelled to the cofferse of the Taliban regime. 

Western powers’ slogans about democracy and human rights have proven hollow and unfounded when they come up against the reality of Taliban repression and corruption. 

Our only course is to unite democratic forces across all spectrums of society with the goal of creating a true democracy in Afghanistan. The first step should be to back the women’s protest movement and its aims. At a minimum, media and promotional support for women is the most expedient avenue to pursue. To control our collective destiny, gain civic and human rights, and make our voice heard globally, we must support the protesting women who are representing our shared democratic principles and human rights. This strategy will usher us into a new phase of international relations and interactions. 

In this historic moment, there is no task more pressing or vital for opponents of the Taliban regime than supporting women’s protest movements, including the one in Germany. The ongoing nature of this movement makes it a vital one for mass mobilization and worldwide credibility.  

Rather than passively cursing the darkness, let us each light a candle to dispel the omnipresent darkness of the Taliban’s cruel regime, reveal its barbaric and horrifying visage to the world, and raise the stakes for politicians willing to engage with this group. 

Our request to the United Nations and international community aligns with the protesting women in Germany: to recognize that the Taliban have built a system of gender apartheid in Afghanistan and implement a legal and human rights framework that will hold them accountable. We call for an inquiry into pervasive gender-based torture and harassment in Afghanistan, which must be viewed as a systematic and flagrant violation of human rights and a crime against humanity.