Sunday, May 28, 2023

Afghan Diaspora Takes to the Streets: Demanding Women’s Rights and International Action Against Taliban

By Ali Ahmad 

On the 10th of March, at the front of the United Nations (UN) building in Vienna, over 100 Afghan men and women gathered to protest the Taliban’s oppressive rule over women since their return to power on the 15th of August 2021. The Afghan diaspora referred to the Taliban as a terrorist organization and rejected the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan through this demonstration. The protesters came from various countries such as the U.S, Germany, Norway Sweden, Turkey, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. The protest was part of the “Afghan Women’s Revolution” conference that the Afghan cultural association – AKIS held the following day. Participants in the demonstration demanded that the international community take immediate action to address the Taliban’s serious violations of women’s and human rights. 

A small number of women from the Iranian diaspora joined the protest and staged a sit-in demonstration as part of their worldwide “Women, Life, Freedom” protest against the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Iranian diaspora called for fundamental human and women’s rights in Afghanistan as well as in Iran. 

The Taliban have banned women from attending educational centers and universities beyond 6th grade as well as restricted their access to the labor market since the Taliban’s takeover. Women’s equal access to school, the labor market, and freedom of movement were the protester’s initial demands. The participants of the demonstration criticized the international community for its actions in Afghanistan over the past 20 years and how women were abandoned to the Taliban’s apartheid regime. 

Women’s rights advocate, Tamana Zaryabi Paryani travelled from Germany to Austria to speak out against the torture, detention, and disappearance of women in Afghanistan. The Taliban detained Paryani and her sisters in January 2022 because they had participated in demonstrations for women’s rights. After 27 days in the Taliban’s detention, she and her sisters were released, and they fled to Germany afterwards. 

Because she could not remain silent in the face of oppression, Paryani underlined the necessity of speaking out against the Taliban’s tyranny. “I left my country to amplify their voice and pain. We must stand up against the Taliban’s cruelty. Staying silent and staying in Afghanistan were not options. Silence means death to me,” Paryani said in her brief address.  

Heela Najibulla, a researcher on peace and reconciliation claimed that her country of origin and the people have been taken hostage by the radical and extremist group. Najibullah demanded equality and the abolition of the Taliban regime’s prejudice against women. She said, “we are raising our voices for the freedom and sovereignty of our country, and above all for the future generation and for the women of Afghanistan.”

“We deserve peace. We deserve freedom and to live equally next to our brothers and sisters around the world,” concluded Najibullah during her brief statement at the demonstration.

Mina Miakhel, another female protester from Afghan diaspora, pleaded on the UN to intervene and compel the Taliban to respect women’s rights and stop funding the Taliban, which only solidifies their hold on power. In addition to the Taliban, Miakhel asked for sanctions against Pakistan, which has supported the Taliban insurgency against the U.S. forces in Afghanistan for the past 20 years. 

The demonstration’s initial focus was on the Taliban’s oppression of women’s rights. Nonetheless, the protesters chanted against Pakistan, who they claimed was the Taliban’s principal backer during their two-decade insurgency. The protesters carried a number of anti-Pakistani signs. They also accused Pakistan for “supporting terrorism” in Afghanistan and demanded that both Pakistan and the Taliban face sanctions from the international community. 

“Taliban means Pakistan’s army,” said one of the signs. Another stated: “Schools in Afghanistan are closed by the order of Pakistan.” At the protest, an Afghan woman chanted, “No to Taliban! No to terrorism! Down with the Taliban supporters!”

The organizer and participants of the demonstration issued a resolution with several concrete requests from the UN. They called for the establishment of an inclusive administration in Afghanistan, regular oversight of human and women’s rights violation under the Taliban rule, and unconditional release of activists from prisons. They demanded that the UN  take action rather than merely condemning the situation, that they continue to support women-led households with financial benefits to help them become self-sufficient, adopt welcoming and inclusive policies, particularly for Afghan women seeking asylum in Europe, and maintain ongoing oversight of the curriculum of schools run by the Taliban de facto government. 

Concerns about the de facto authorities imposing their radical ideas and Talibanizing the whole education system were raised and handed in writing at the UN office by the Afghan demonstrators.  

Note:The contents of the article are of sole responsibility of the author. Afghan Diaspora Network will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the articles.

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