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Afghan women defy Taliban, return to work & school in Kabul: 'I must study & build my country'

Despite the Taliban's assault on women across the country, they have returned to work and school in protest.

Afghan women defy Taliban, return to work & school in Kabul: 'I must study & build my country'
Image Source: Afghan Girls Education: Kabul Giirls School Reopens After Coronavirus Break. KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - JULY 24. (Photo by Paula Bronstein /Getty Images)

Trigger Warning: Violence Against Women

In September, a month after the Taliban swept to power in Afghanistan, the militant group banned girls and women from secondary education and work. They ordered high schools to reopen only for boys, reminding the Middle Eastern country of their previous five-year rule, a time when girls did not return to class. Now, young girls and women are defying the Taliban's orders and returning to school and work despite their fear. Meanwhile, schools and workplaces are not the only places under attack; the Taliban have prohibited women from playing roles in the government and have even defaced posters featuring women, CNN reports.


Atifa Watanyar, a teacher in Afghanistan, is one of the few women returning to their workplaces. In May this year, she stood at the entrance of the Sayed Al-Shuhada school on the outskirts of the capital and witnessed an explosion in front of the main gate. As her students rushed for safety, a second and then a third bomb detonated, killing at least 85 people. Many of the victims were teenage girls. Today, she stands at that very entrance despite everything she stands to lose—Taliban fighters recently beat a group of women with whips and sticks when they protested the announcement of the all-male government in Kabul. She said, "What should we do, what should we do? It's just the thing that we can do for our children, for our daughters, for our girls."


Teenage girls, too, have been brave enough to return to class. Sanam Bahnia, aged 16, is one of them. She was one of the victims injured during the terrorist attack. "One of my classmates, who was killed, was someone who really worked hard in her studies—when I heard that she was martyred, I felt that I must go back and study, for the peace of her soul," she shared. "I must study and build my country so that I can make their wishes and dreams come true." However, her defiance is wavering. Prevented from attending school by the Taliban, she reads her textbook in the corner of her home. Bahnia stated, "The Taliban are the reason for my current state. My spirit is gone, my dreams are buried."


Across the city of Kabul, women are under assault. At almost every beauty salon in the Khair Khana neighborhood, for example, posters featuring women have been either spray-painted black or whitewashed completely. In one salon, the women are too scared to give their names. During a women's protest, they said that the Taliban had driven the demonstrators away before telling them to remove the posters of women, put on burqas, and stay at home.


Despite these odds, women activists continue to protest. Demonstration leader Sahar Sahil Nabizada is one of them. Although she has received several threats, she has refused to leave the country or stop organizing. "When you leave your house for a struggle, you consider everything," she explained. "It's possible that I die, it's possible I get wounded, and it's also possible I return home alive. However, if I or two or three other women die or get injured, basically we accept risks in order to pave way for the generations to come, at least they will be proud of us."


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