On Kabul’s Streets, a Symbol of America’s Lost Influence: Hundreds Dressed in Burqas

Hundreds of girls, many carrying full-length burqas, their faces veiled, stuffed the auditorium of a Kabul college on Saturday holding indicators — a lot of them in English — in help of the Taliban and its strict interpretation of Islam, together with separate training for women and men.

The Taliban mentioned the demonstration at Shaheed Rabbani Education University, which adopted anti-Taliban protests final week by Afghan ladies demanding equal rights, was organized by feminine college lecturers and college students.

Reporters on the road close to Saturday’s march had been evaded the protesters by Taliban fighters armed with automated rifles and weren’t allowed to talk with any of the ladies. Later makes an attempt to succeed in the contributors by means of social media or the college went unanswered.

The demonstration, held on the twentieth anniversary of the Sept. 11 assaults, served as a stark reminder of how regardless of twenty years and greater than $780 million spent selling ladies’s rights, after the departure of American forces final month, the ladies of Afghanistan could possibly be thrown again many years, if not centuries.

When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, it barred ladies and women from holding most jobs and going to highschool, and virtually made them prisoners in their very own houses. Women had been pressured to put on the burqa, a garment that covers them from head to toe, together with usually their eyes. Its use to erase the looks of girls from public life was seen within the West as a logo of Taliban oppression.

The demonstration with giant numbers of girls carrying the garment on the 9/11 anniversary was a pointy rebuke to the United States and its allies, which lengthy cited ladies’s rights as a motive for persevering with the warfare in Afghanistan lengthy after the Taliban was toppled, Al Qaeda was defanged and Osama bin Laden was assassinated.

Since the United States and its allies departed Kabul on Aug. 30, leaving Afghanistan beneath the management of the Taliban, the nation’s ladies have been on the forefront of protests demanding that their rights proceed to be revered.

Taliban leaders have responded to these protests with violence, beating contributors, together with ladies, and insisting that anybody taking to the streets for a public demonstration should first be granted approval from their caretaker authorities.

The Ministry of Education of the performing Taliban authorities mentioned that the ladies at Saturday’s pro-Islamist demonstration had requested for and acquired their permission to carry the occasion.

“Unlike other demonstrations in Kabul, this is the second all-women protest which was nonviolent and the journalists were allowed to cover the protest freely,” the ministry mentioned in a press release.

“The women also welcomed the scheme of separate classes for boys and girls in all universities and institutes and pledged that they would be working for strengthening the Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan,” the ministry mentioned.

But the presence of Taliban fighters, the effectivity with which photos of the occasion and official statements had been disseminated and its timing — on Sept. 11 — recommend that the demonstration was not simply authorised by the Taliban however probably orchestrated by it.

Standing at a podium embellished with giant white flags, a few of the ladies collaborating in Saturday’s demonstration criticized the latest anti-Taliban protests, insisting that ladies ought to associate with the Taliban’s strict coverage that ladies put on a full-body masking.

One lady mentioned anti-Taliban protesters joined final week’s marches simply to turn into well-known within the West, in keeping with a recording obtained by The New York Times.

She acknowledged that these ladies held essential roles in society, together with docs and academics, however mentioned they don’t characterize the entire ladies of Afghanistan.

After the ladies filed out of the auditorium, they held a brief march, chanting in help of the Taliban and brandishing indicators, together with a number of in English that learn, “Women who left Afghanistan cannot represent us,” and “Our rights are protected in Islam.”

Taliban fighters cleared visitors in order that rented buses might transport the ladies from the college grounds.

Even earlier than the Taliban returned to energy, Afghanistan positioned close to the underside of each listing when it got here to protections for girls, and on the high by way of the necessity for shelters, counseling and courts that might assist maintain ladies secure.

Nevertheless, after 20 years of Western help, women and girls made up about 40 p.c of all college students within the nation. Women joined the navy and the police, and held political workplace. Some turned internationally acknowledged singers, competed on the Olympics and on robotics groups, climbed mountains and extra — all issues that had been almost unattainable on the flip of the century.

But a lot of these ladies, seeing no future for themselves, have fled the nation. A ladies’s soccer workforce from Herat made its approach to Italy, 5 members of the Afghan women’ robotics workforce landed in Mexico, and Zarifa Ghafari, one in every of Afghanistan’s first feminine mayors, arrived in Germany, the place she just lately met with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Ms. Ghafari expressed outrage on the photos of the ladies on the college in Kabul on Saturday. “This isn’t our culture!” she wrote on Twitter. “Afghan women aren’t part of extremism, don’t make them savage, don’t impose ISIS culture on us!”

When the Taliban introduced their caretaker authorities on Tuesday, leaders within the West famous that it didn’t stay as much as guarantees that the group can be extra inclusive of Afghanistan’s numerous ethnic teams and spiritual minorities. It was additionally made up totally of males, breaking with one other pledge by Taliban leaders.

Hours earlier than the performing authorities was introduced, a whole lot of Afghans, ladies amongst them, took to the streets to peacefully demand that their rights be revered beneath their new leaders. Taliban fighters used rifle butts and sticks to violently break up the protest, sending contributors fleeing.

On Wednesday, two Afghan journalists had been detained and violently assaulted for masking a protest in Kabul. Photos confirmed the backsides of each reporters lined with bruises and gashes from being whipped repeatedly with cables, sparking a world outcry.

Reporting was contributed by Sami Sahak and Wali Arian



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