Letters: “We will fight to protect our hard-gained freedom”

By: Fereshta Abbasi

It is not easy to write about the peace deal that has been signed between the Taliban and the US. My recollection about Taliban is disturbing. When I think about a deal with Taliban a gloomy image of my country interrupts my mind: an image that shows women in burqa, women in silence and women in pain.

But there is a power—perhaps a sacred power—that pushes me to write and speak my thoughts. Sitting in a cosy café in Scotland, my thoughts and feelings are with my friends and family in Kabul, imagining how life would like once the Taliban are back.                     

I talked to friends in Kabul, curious to know more about current affairs. It looks like everybody is confused and concerned. Nobody knows what next step is and what will happen with the intra-Afghan talks. As a lawyer who cares for civil liberty, I carefully went through the agreement, eager to know what they have agreed on. Repetition of the word ‘Islam’, the adjective ‘Islamic’ and too much insistence upon them in the agreement echo the era when the zealous extremist Taliban mullahs were in power.      

 A few days ago, I had a presentation on the Taliban version of Political Islam at my university: I was explaining the very basic rules applied on women during the Taliban rule. Under brutal Taliban rule, women were forced to be covered fully with burqa in public, women were not allowed to wear high heels, and women were not allowed to speak loud in public. Under their rule, women were not allowed to go outside home unless accompanied by a blood-related male chaperon.

My course mates, most of whom come from European backgrounds, were shocked at hearing me talking about Taliban behavior and attitude towards women.  

Taliban ideology, no matter how mass media are now portraying it, is a set of dictatorial mindset which is combined of Islamic extremism and tribal code of conduct.

Even today when I hear chats and talks about the Taliban and their comeback to the capital Kabul, the deep troubled voices of women under Taliban occupy my mind and thoughts. Taliban position on women rights is clear; they respect women’s rights in accordance with principles of Islam, which is a narrow interpretation of Islam. They imposed brutal restrictions on women during their rule. They dynamited Buddhas of Bamyan which were ancient cultural heritage from pre-Islamic civilization. They closed down girls’ schools. They banned TV and music, and they stoned to death women in kangaroo courts.          

As an Afghan woman who was born in exile, raised and studied in wartime, I fear Taliban interpretation of Islam, in particular when it comes to women rights, is narrow, bigoted and misleading. To me, Taliban ideology, no matter how mass media are now portraying them, is a set of dictatorial mindset which is combined of Islamic extremism and tribal code of conduct.

I expected to see some red lines in terms of individual rights put in place before signing of the deal. The international community should have put some safeguards in place to make sure that we are not moving back to 1990s. The future is unclear, but to Taliban members and Taliban supporters out there, I would say that there is a new generation that has emerged in the last 20 years. When you were fighting in villages busy killing innocent people, we were going to schools, we were working to strengthen our government, and we were contributing to a better future for this country.

No matter what peace negotiators, who will sit on negotiating table, choose to do, we the Afghan women, as fought in the last 18 years, will fight to protect our hard-gained rights and freedom. We will continue getting education and educating next generation. We will work for a prosperous and progressive Afghanistan.

Fereshta Abbasi is a lawyer. She is currently doing a masters in law at University of Aberdeen, Scotland.

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