Working with the Taliban on Women’s Rights: It’s Like Talking to Local Fish!

In a short time, the protagonist, artist and refugee from Afghanistan, Nahid Shahalimi, prevailed. The all-women’s school that she has been working to establish in Afghanistan has been approved by the current Afghan government – the Taliban.

Shahalimi has been working on the project for almost six years, even before the Taliban took to the streets of Kabul in August. When the abduction took place, Shahalimi was initially worried about evicting the most vulnerable people in the country – human rights activists, women’s rights activists and people with strong links to the West.

But today, it is The Taliban flag is flying at Kabul, his motives have changed. “We can’t take half the population out of this country,” he says, “that’s not real … what we can do is make life better for a 20-year-old who doesn’t know the real Taliban; who only knows it from TV and history books.”

To a young woman living in Kabul, the Taliban appear to be older than the main threat. Since 2001, millions of girls have gone to school and older women have worked in the public life in various ways. he was forbidden to do so during the former Taliban regime. A 20-year-old Kabul woman is now facing life under Islamic Sharia law for the first time. “It will be devastating, especially for the youth,” says Shahalimi, “and we will cry. But as we cry, we must also see how we react later.”

For Shahalimi, to be ‘true’ means to do things that can bring real results. They encourage people who are trying to help put their energy and resources where they know they will be affected – which does not include sending money to organizations where donations cannot be tracked. “Most of these non-governmental organizations [sending money to Afghans] are being monitored by the Taliban, “Shahalimi says,” each of them will write a letter confirming whether it is appropriate for the new government or whether it is too white for the new regime. ” banks are just reopening a week after the closing, it is unlikely that the money will be sent to the recipients.

When he introduced his idea of ​​the school (whose name and details he could not explain for security reasons), Shahalimi wanted to make sure he could survive under Taliban rule. At that time, Afghanistan was not under Taliban rule, but Shahalimi knew that this could change, quickly. (Although the Taliban were forced to disperse in 2001, they remained gathering and regaining energy in the last 20 years.) Signs of their growing influence have become increasingly evident in recent years — when girls are enrolled in school. dropped significantly after 2014, and in 2020 when there was a 45% increase in casualties in Afghanistan, including a 13% increase in the number of women killed that year.

Shahalimi recognized this, and he acted accordingly. “I wanted to make sure we were doing something, when the day came [the Taliban] When they enter this country, they will allow it because it is under that culture, “he said. Taliban law prohibits various gender or educational activities, so a school for all women should be approved.

In fact, Shahalimi is working, rather than opposing, the Taliban to better support women’s rights. His idea of ​​doing so is based on a vague understanding of reality; the war against the Taliban is over. Women and girls in Afghanistan have lost many of the freedoms they have enjoyed for 20 years. He stated: “This is something we should all agree with.

Even though he did not do it, he did not give up.

In the past few weeks, Shahalimi has been liaising with education agencies working to keep these girls in schools. Afghan universities are redesigning classrooms to address discrimination, in line with Taliban law. In the past gay schools, all women and universities are allowed to continue. Shahalimi knows that the lives of these students will not be the same, but he hopes that some of the progress of the last two decades can be stabilized. “If you want [the Taliban] in order to accept and accept what you want them to understand, you must speak one language, ”he says,“ We ​​are talking to land fish! ”

This analogy refers to what Shahalimi states that the Taliban are unable, or unwilling, to understand human rights and similarities in the ways in which the West understands them. They do not believe that the struggle is about reassuring them of progressive ideas; the war is gaining the best results for those directly affected by the Taliban regime. That is why they are not fighting for a cohesive school that teaches students a history of feminism; instead they are struggling – and doing well – to create a school that conforms to Taliban ideals or, at least to a degree, cannot directly oppose it.

Women today are an important part of the economy and culture of Afghanistan, and the Taliban cannot simply put this aside, Shahalimi says:

“Winning the war, and winning the country is one thing — running the country is another. They want these young people and they need these women to go to their jobs [e.g. women police officers]… and they have been saying that. And what I have heard from the world, they have fulfilled their promise to this day. ”

Although the Taliban have confirmed this so far The rights of women and girls will not be compromised, the real facts show otherwise. Women are crying dropped out of universities they have been there for many years, and they are beaten for not providing food to the Taliban troops. Public pictures of women wearing makeup have been paint or demolition, and more taxis drivers now refuse to take women in their cars. Some women who have popular social networking sites also live forced to hide.

The international significance of the event was not lost on Shahalimi, who was forced to flee Afghanistan as a child, back in the 80’s. For him, the rise of the Taliban is linked to many other human rights abuses around the world. “A white man sat at the polls and thought the alliance would be done at the expense of women and minorities,” Shahalimi said. “It is the same thing — abortion laws, Poland, by-laws — everything is connected. This is why Afghanistan is so important. ”

“Talking to land fish” does not mean turning fish into birds; and finding a way to speak of heaven to someone who has never seen it. While the Taliban may not be interested in an idea that is Western, feminine, or elevated, Shahalimi does not abandon these ideas, prioritizing programs and activities that have a chance of survival. This is how she hopes to protect women in Afghanistan today.

Click on the image below for a 25-minute interview on the Women’s eNews podcast:

About the author: Gavi Klein, senior at the University of Brandeis, and a 2021 colleague in Syms Journalistic Excellence Program * at Women’s eNews, with the help of a Syms Foundation. The Syms Journalistic Excellence in Women’s Fellowship program facilitates the creative and developmental workforce of professionals in the search for journalism.

Syms Journalistic Excellence Program

The Syms Journalistic Excellence program for Women’s eNews was launched in 2014 with the support of the Syms Foundation. The association provides an opportunity for support and development for intern writers in the search for journalism.

“For democracy to flourish all words must be heard.” says Marcy Syms, Founder and Founder of the Syms Foundation. “Through its eNews Women’s research it is reaching the peak of good journalism. The Syms Foundation is proud of this partnership to support new women journalists today.”

As part of her work to bring about social change for women and girls through research reports, News Women’s contributes to the promotion, training, and support of the development of new journalist work in the pursuit of social justice and women’s rights.

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