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Afghan women protest for human rights and against the Taliban through dance

In a courageous display of resistance, a group of Afghan women activists danced in Kabul as a form of protest in a country where women are banned from attending school, work and even going to parks.

These protesters are members of a movement known as the "Strong Afghan Women Movement," which was formed by a group of Afghan women in response to the resurgence of the Taliban. In a video that was posted last Friday, four women wearing Burqas are seen dancing to a Pashto song. The protesters say about 18 people were involved in arranging everything for the protest, including a safe place the Taliban couldn’t find them.

Afghan women activists, through this form of protest, are voicing their opposition against the Taliban’s leader Hibatuulah Akhundzada’s recent remarks about women, claiming that Afghan women have undergone “reform” thanks to the Taliban’s policies.

"With this action, we delivered the message to the Taliban that you cannot tarnish our reputation with your meaningless rhetoric.” Basira Hussaini Bigzad one of the protesters said in an interview with CTVNews.ca. “Dancing to the music that the Taliban praise their leader, we express that Afghan women will never give importance to your commands and reject your authority.”

After returning to power in August 2021, the Taliban banned women from secondary and post-secondary education and put restrictions on where women could work. They have also banned music and destroyed musical instruments in the country.

Human rights groups say those who defy the Taliban’s restrictions can face imprisonment and even torture.

"We are fully aware that our actions will entail consequences, but we felt compelled to act. We are prepared to make sacrifices, even risking our lives, in order to bring changes. We understand that we may face arrest, imprisonment, or even death, and we accept these potential outcomes with unwavering resolve." Bigzad added.

Last August, when Bigzad joined a protest in Kabul, the Taliban arrested her before releasing her after few hours. However, Taliban fighters stormed Bigzad’s house and arrested her husband.

“He was in the Taliban's custody for two days. He was beaten up and tortured by the Taliban. He was imprisoned because of me.” Bigzad said.

Nahid Sultani and Razia Saadat, both mothers, say they were left with no choice rather than joining the protests after being terminated from their jobs solely due to their gender.

Sultani and Saadat say the Taliban's discriminatory actions forced them into a position where they had to raise their voices. They say the only thing that convinced them to risk their lives and take part in the protest is their children’s future.

“I have a 12-year-old daughter, she recently finished Grade 6 and was supposed to go to Grade 7, but due to Taliban restrictions, she is not allowed to continue her school. She was going to English classes for a while but unfortunately, the Taliban have banned the course as well. She is always crying.” Razia Saadat told CTVNews.ca over the phone.

The moms want the world to not forget Afghan women and push the Taliban to recognize them.

“This is very unfortunate that the world has forgotten Afghan women and left us with uncertainty and a dark future. I want the UN and the world to not recognize the Taliban,” Sultani said.

Amnesty International, in a report released last week, called for an investigation into the Taliban's actions against women and girls, labelling it as a potential crime against humanity under the category of gender persecution.

According to the Amnesty International report, the human rights situation of women and girls in Afghanistan deteriorated severely after the Taliban returned to power, and with the group’s new restrictions women and girls have been oppressed in almost all aspects of their lives. https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/asa11/6789/2023/en/

In an interview with CTVNews.ca, Amnesty International’s South Asia Researcher Zaman Sultani criticized the international community’s approach towards women and girls in Afghanistan.

“International community’s response to the repressive rules of the Taliban on women, I would say, has been mostly passive; they tried issuing statements and nothing more has been done so far,” Sultani said. “The International community and particularly the UN should work toward establishing an independent accountability mechanism with regard to the situation in Afghanistan.

Reporting for this story was paid for through The Afghan Journalists in Residence Project funded by Meta.

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