Afghan women posters lie whitewashed on the streets of Kabul as the Taliban makes a full-throttled return to Afghanistan. Whatever stationary traces were left of women in public spaces – after the air of dread brought on by the radical terror outfit pushed living, breathing ones into the confines of their homes – are being binned.
These aren’t just women’s faces that are being obliterated from view on advertisements, marketplaces, shop hoardings, salons. It’s the long-fought rights and dignity they had painstakingly won over 20 years. It’s the empowerment they had reclaimed through education and careers. It’s the dreams they were still dreaming of equality, of an Afghanistan where generations of girls could live without fear.
All of that was pulled down when the posters were.
The fears of women and girls in the country have come to life surreally sooner than was anticipated – much like the pullout of American troops and simultaneous advance of the Taliban into power. Old wounds from 1996 have been reopened, with ghosts of the Taliban’s oppressive, misogynistic, criminal regime returning to haunt.
“We have bitter memories of the Taliban past that will not be forgotten,” Zarmina Kakar, an activist and political speaker in Afghanistan tells SheThePeople. Read here.
Afghan Women Posters Stripped: Voices Say It’s Just The Beginning
During their five-year rule before US forces took over in 2001, the Taliban was notorious for, what can only be described as, an anti-women stance. Under Sharia, the laws they sanctioned included severely restricting the mobility and identity of women in public society.
From enforcing the burqa, so women’s faces were invisible to men they would ‘corrupt’, to assaulting them for moving outdoors without a male guardian – regulations claiming to preserve dignity, in reality, stripped it naked. Appalled, Afghan women are witnessing history repeat itself in 2021.
TOLO News head Lotfullah Najafizada shared this image from Kabul amid ensuing panic on August 15, hours before the Taliban closed in on the administrative centre in the capital.
— Lotfullah Najafizada (@LNajafizada) August 15, 2021
“I’ve been to this salon. Always brimming with women getting ready for weddings and gatherings,” a woman, who told us she took a flight out of Afghanistan the day Taliban rule began, wrote in response to the picture.
Before the Taliban get to it, shop owners fearing the worst are themselves taking down the panels of female models that added colour and fashion to the streets. In other places, these displays are being whitewashed. Only a week in, Afghan women despair their identities are being erased. Would it only be a matter of time then that they disappear completely?
The facade of a beauty saloon with images of women is defaced with spray paint in Shar-e-Naw in Kabul, Afghanistan.
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) August 19, 2021
Despite Fears, Afghan Women Find Ways To Resist
It is the initial period of Taliban rule so, “everyone is in their own homes and women are rarely seen in the city because all women are terrified,” Kakar says. Her statements were echoed by Pashtana Durrani, an educator and non-profit founder in Afghanistan, who worries about the future of her students – read her interview here. An Afghan journalist SheThePeople spoke to said she stayed home from work on the first day of the changed reign and “no one had the courage to go out.”
Hubs of city activity and public buzz have now gone silent, on-ground reports say.
Though the new rulers have attempted to present a changed face, claiming in a press conference held yesterday that the rights of women would be protected and they could partake in public society, there is a general sense of doom with the belief these are nothing but empty promises. While some women journalists bravely returned to television reporting, several other female presenters claim they were turned back when they reached their studios.
What future awaits Afghan women?
These brave women took to the streets in Kabul to protest against Taliban. They simplify asking for their rights, the right to work, the right for education and the right to political participation.The right to live in a safe society. I hope more women and men join them. pic.twitter.com/pK7OnF2wm2
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) August 17, 2021
However, women are building courage and finding strength in numbers to venture out. Between August 17 and 18, women have led street protests in the capital city in defence of their rights, holding banners and plaque cards. In these pockets of resistance lie hope and defiance. These are voices of Afghan women declaring they will not stand down in the face of terror. They will not return to the dark ages. Enough of telling us how to live.
Image: Lotfullah Najafizada / Twitter