Working with the Taliban for Women’s Rights: It’s Like Speaking to Fish about Land!

Not long ago, activist, artist, and former Afghan refugee Nahid Shaharimi won. All the women’s schools she has worked to establish in Afghanistan have been approved by the current Afghan government, the Taliban.

Shaharimi has been working on this project for nearly six years before the Taliban arrived in the city of Kabul in August. When the acquisition took place, Shaharimi was initially concerned about taking the most endangered people out of the country: public activists, candid women’s rights workers, and those with close ties to the West. rice field.

But today Taliban flag flying over Kabul, Her goal has shifted. “We can’t evacuate half of the country’s population,” she says. “That’s not realistic … what we can do is make the lives of those 20-year-olds who don’t know the real Taliban better. Those who only know it from television and history books.”

To a young adult woman who now lives in Kabul, the Taliban looked more like a relic of the past than an imminent threat. Since 2001, millions of girls have been enrolled in school and adult women have engaged in the workforce and public life in different ways. They were forbidden to do During the previous Taliban administration. Therefore, a typical 20-year-old Kabul woman is now experiencing for the first time life under the strict Islamic Shariah administration. “It will be devastating, especially for young people,” says Shaharimi. But while we are in mourning, we also have to be realistic about how we will proceed. “

For Shaharimi, being “realistic” means taking action that has a real effect. She encourages people who are trying to help place their energy and resources where they know they will be affected, not to include remittances to organizations that cannot track donations. “Most of these NGOs [sending money to Afghans] It has been evaluated by the Taliban, “says Shaharimi. “Each of them will go through the paperwork to determine if it is suitable for the new regime, or if it is too westernized for this new regime.” Banks just reopen After a full week of closure, she says it is unlikely that the money being sent has actually reached the intended recipient.

When she announced the idea for this school (its name and details could not be revealed for security reasons), Shaharimi wanted to be able to survive under the Taliban administration. At that time, Afghanistan was not under Taliban control, but Shaharimi knew that this might change soon. (The Taliban were forced to scatter in 2001, but they Regain and regain power In the last 20 years. ) Signs of increasing influence are becoming more and more apparent in recent years when girls enter school. Significant decrease since 2014And in 2020 Civilian casualties increased by 45% In Afghanistan, the number of women killed that year increased by 13%.

Shaharimi recognized this trend and acted accordingly. “I wanted to make sure we were making something when that day came. [the Taliban] When you step into the country, they will allow it because it’s under its cultural umbrella, “she says.Taliban method Mixed gender work and study is prohibitedTherefore, all women’s schools should be accepted.

Basically, Shaharimi does not oppose the Taliban, but works to best support women’s rights. Her decision to do so is based on a frank understanding of current reality. The war with the Taliban has been lost. Women and girls in Afghanistan will lose more rights that they have held comfortably for 20 years. “That’s something we all have to accept,” she says.

She resigned to this, but it doesn’t depress her.

For the past few weeks, Shaharimi has been in contact with academic institutions working to send these young women to school. Afghanistan-based universities are reorganizing their classrooms to accommodate gender separation in accordance with Taliban law. Already gender-separated, all-female schools and universities are allowed to continue to operate. Shaharimi knows that the lives of these students are not the same, but hopes to sustain some of the progress made over the last two decades. “if you want [the Taliban] You must speak the same language to accept and agree with what you want them to understand, “she says. “We are talking to fish about the land!”

This comparison shows that Shaharimi explains that the Taliban are basically impossible or unwilling to understand human rights and equality in the way the West understands them. She does not believe that the fight is to convince them of a progressive ideal. The battle is to get the best results for those directly affected by the Taliban’s rule. Therefore, she is not fighting for a co-educated school that teaches her students the history of feminists. She would instead fight by building a school that meets the Taliban’s standards, and would be successful, or at least not directly opposed to them.

Women today are an integral part of Afghani’s economy and society, and the Taliban cannot put that reality aside, Shaharimi says.

“Winning the war and winning the country is one thing. Running the country is another. They need these young people and they need these women to go to their jobs. And [e.g. women police officers]… and they said so. And from what I heard in the field, they have kept their promises so far. ”

The Taliban has so far assured the press that: The rights of women and girls are not threatened, The reality on earth suggests that this is not the case.women are Away from college They have been in attendance for years Beaten for not serving food For Taliban soldiers.The public image of a woman wearing makeup is Filled or demolishedAnd many taxis Drivers are currently refusing to get women in the car..Some women with a prominent social media presence I was forced to hide..

Forced to flee Afghanistan as a child, Shaharimi does not lose the global significance of this situation in the 1980s. Since then, she has devoted her life to fighting for humanitarian efforts around the world, promoting the rights of women and girls as much as possible. For her, the rise of the Taliban’s power fits in with many other human rights issues that are occurring around the world. “Several white men sat at the decision-making table and decided that the deal would take place at the expense of women and minorities,” says Shahalimi. “It’s the same-abortion law, Poland, minority law-everything is related to each other. That’s why Afghanistan is so important.”

“Talking to fish about the land” does not mean turning those fish into birds. It’s about finding a way to talk about the sky to people who have never seen it. The Taliban will not blatantly enjoy Western, feminist, or loud and progressive ideas, but Shaharimi will not let go of these ideals by prioritizing programs and actions that may survive. This is how she wants to protect Afghan women today.

Please click the image To watch a 25-minute interview with the Women’s eNews podcast, see:

About the writer: Gavi KleinBrandeis University Senior is a 2021 Fellow. SySyms Journalism Excellence Program * At Women’s eNews, Sy Syms Foundation.. The Women’s News Fellowship’s SySyms Journalistic Excellence Program supports editing and development opportunities for editorial internships in pursuit of journalism excellence.

SySyms Journalism Excellence Program

Women’s News’ SySyms Journalistic Excellence program was launched in 2014 with the support of the Sy Syms Foundation. Fellowships provide support and development opportunities for editorial internships seeking journalism excellence.

“For democracy to flourish, all voices must be heard,” says Marcy Syms, founding councilor and chairman of the Sy Syms Foundation. “Through investigative journalism, Women’s News understands the essence of great journalism. The Sy Syms Foundation is proud of this collaboration to support today’s latest female journalists.”

Women’s eNews trains, trains and supports new journalists with a focus on social justice and women’s rights as part of their mission to create social change for women and girls through investigative journalism.

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