Who is Mahbouba Seraj: Among the most prominent and important voices of advocacy for the rights of Afghan girls and women, Mahbouba Seraj is no ordinary force. When she speaks, the world sits up to listen – as it is right now, while her homeland grapples with the newly instated terror regime under the Taliban.
Mother to a whole people, who, under her wing, have for many years found the courage to dream of living with dignity and independence, seventy-something Seraj saw no option but to return to her beloved Afghanistan from the United States, where she reportedly was until some days ago.
“The women and girls of Afghanistan need me and it is my job and my duty to do this work… I love my life and I want to stay for my daughters and sisters,” Seraj said in a now-viral interview with TRT World.
— Heather Barr (@heatherbarr1) August 15, 2021
Echoing the despair of Afghan women who anticipate (and in some places, have begun to witness) major repression of their freedoms, Seraj’s appeals to the global community exude both deep emotion and anger. “Shame on you,” she said to the world, accusing it of sitting by as spectators as the Taliban regained their stronghold in her home country.
Voices of women SheThePeople interacted with on-ground in Kabul and elsewhere carry a consistent tone of fear that the rights they gained over 20 years after the Taliban’s rule ended in 2001 stand to be lost.
Already, reports raising the alarm are pouring in – of women’s faces on street hoardings being whitewashed, of girls being shot for dressing per choice, of women journalists being evicted from newsrooms taken over by religious fundamentalists.
Why You Should Know Who Is Mahbouba Seraj
Born and educated in Kabul, Seraj was in exile for 25 years until she made a return to her homeland in 2003. According to the Afghan Women’s Skills Development Centre, of which Seraj is the executive director, she is the founder of multiple noted media setups, including the radio program ‘Our Beloved Afghanistan by Mahbouba Seraj’ and the Organisation for Research in Peace and Solidarity, both of which have actively led the front in defending women’s rights in the country.
She was away during the barbaric period of the Taliban’s reign the last time around. This time, she refuses to budge.
“I have to be here for the women, cannot leave them alone”: Mahbouba Seraj on life under the Taliban
It would appear the overwhelming accountability she harbours for the girls of her country is powerful enough to even sweep her in the unnerving direction of the Taliban for peace talks to the extent that education and careers of the female population remain free of curbs.
“I hope at least we can talk to them,” she told the BBC, ready to sit face-to-face with an extremist outfit notorious for its intolerance of liberated women.
Image credit: Afghan Women’s Network