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Afghan women vent fury against the US fearing “extreme brutality” after Taliban’s takeover

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Mahbooba Seraj, the director of the Afghan Women Network talking to the Turkish channel TRT World

Afghan women are venting their fury against the Biden administration , incensed by the  horrifying pictures that are surfacing on the social media of Taliban’s extreme cruelty in areas that have fallen under the group’s control.

A generation of women have grown up in Afghanistan  since the Taliban were toppled from power in 2001. But many of those who have guided the country through profound change--running schools, or as journalists or politicians, now fear the return of extreme brutality under Taliban’s Pakistan- backed misogynist “rule”.

Mahbooba Siraj, the director of the Afghan Women Network is one of them. In an interview to the Turkish channel TRT World, she says that now all that was achieved in the last decades, is going up in smoke. She was referring to the Taliban’s military advance after the Biden administration decided to pull-out all American and NATO forces by September 11.

“I want to tell those world leaders: Shame on you...for what you do to Afghanistan. Why you have to do this, what you did and why are you doing this to us, I don't get it. Are you losing us or we are just pawns in your hand, is that what it is ? Now we don't have any hopes from you,” she said lashing out at the “international community”.

Afghan women have a great deal to fear if Afghanistan is slipping back into the full-blown Civil War that ravaged the country in the 1990s. If security means a return to the same rules that brought in by the Taliban that decade, it will be for them, once again,  a living hell-on-earth.

Mahbooba is not the only woman who is furious at the US “betrayal”. There are many who have lived through the dark age of medievalist Taliban, who are shouting from the rooftops against the global heavyweights. 

Dr. Habiba Sarabi, one of only four women negotiating peace with the Taliban as part of the ongoing intra-Afghan talks, have been warning about the dire prospects of Taliban rule. “We must not falter in our determination to keep going until we realize our vision of an Afghanistan where every woman can live in peace and recognize her rights. Today we are fighting terrorism in our country, but tomorrow it will knock at every door," she once said  presciently.

On Monday, a number of Afghan women, who had gathered in Kabul, voiced their anger against Taliban atrocities in the areas under their control. They urged the United Nations Security Council to listen to the voices of Afghanistan’s women. They narrated the horrifying accounts that how  the Taliban have been using  women as sex slaves in areas under their control.

“What is happening in Afghanistan today, it is going to  (take) Afghanistan 200 years back again. And how we are going to do that. I don't see anything for this generation. Now it's going to happen again. So, what are you going to do...sit again, talk again, and lose again and make another generation ? And for the world to make another stupid generation and destroy us all. Is this what is going on,” asked Mahbooba.

“Women & girls suffered disproportionately during the 4 decades of war. They have experienced forms of violence navigating their daily lives during the war. The Int. Community should protect the women from the heavy pain that ongoing war generates for them”, says another activist Nazila Jamshidi.

The general feeling among the Afghan women is that the Afghan people are not a part of this process, especially women who paid the highest price under the Taliban’s misgovernment. Afghan women  don’t know what will happen to their lives in future, and to the freedoms they got after the Taliban were forced to leave after the 9/11 twin-tower attacks.

Over the years, after the fall of the Taliban regime, there were significant improvements in the legal protection for women. The training of a cadre of women lawyers, prosecutors, and judges, and the adoption of new laws, such as the Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAW) law that criminalised 22 acts of abuse against women were some of the steps that helped protect women's rights in the country . 

Last month, the militant group issued a new diktat ordering locals to follow strict rules that are similar to those they imposed on Afghans when they last governed the country from 1996 to 2001.

“All imams and mullahs in captured areas should provide the Taliban with a list of girls above 14 and widows under 45 to be married to Taliban fighters,” the order says.

Also Read: Women fear the Taliban’s return as the group grabs young Afghan girls and young widows to serve their fighters

As the Taliban claims that they are now controlling 65% of the country, women activists are aghast with the US president Joe Biden’s recent statement that now Afghans are on their own, and they must ‘fight for themselves”.

While feeling abondoned,  the Afghan women groups have decided to fight on their own.

“If we surrender to the Taliban, the future ... will also be dark. So, my message to the whole new generation is to fight until the last moment.”

Also Read: Biden says Afghanistan leadership has got to take on the Taliban

With some 27 million smartphones,  70% of the population under the age of 25 , the young Afghans dream of a very different future. The viral video of Afghanistan’s first rapper Paradise Sorouri, who was forced to flee her country twice after  being nearly killed when assaulted by 10 men for not wearing a Hijab, showcases the aspiration of the country’s youth. Since then, Sorouri has been fighting for women's rights with her music, “If I stay silent, nothing will change,” she said.