‘They can’t hold girls,’ says Afghan women’s rights activist of Taliban regime

The rapid takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban precipitated a severe setback in women’s rights, but journalist and activist Mahbouba Seraj believes that promoting gender equality in her home country is an unstoppable force that will eventually triumph over the apparently unwavering resistance of the new government.

“Afghanistan is not the same Afghanistan it was 20 years ago,” Seraj told CBC’s Susan Ormiston during an interview in the capital Kabul. “We are no longer a country where women have no voice.”

WATCH | “They have to go to school. Full stop, says Seraj:

“They have to go to school. Period ”, says Afghan women’s rights activist

Mahbouba Seraj, head of the Afghan Women’s Network, discusses what the Taliban’s return to power means for women and girls in Afghanistan with CBC’s Susan Ormiston. 0:35

The last time the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, from 1996 to 2001, women were banned from working and girls from going to school. The group carried out public executions and applied a strict interpretation of Islamic law.

Seraj, the head of the Afghan Women’s Network who was recently recognized by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, has carefully observed how the Taliban governs when it comes to women.

And although the Taliban have curtailed rights they previously enjoyed – such as segregating universities by gender, breaking up protests calling for equality at gunpoint, and banning women from playing cricket – Seraj says pressure from inside and outside Afghanistan will force them to surrender.

PHOTOS | Scenes from the daily life of women in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime:

“The Taliban don’t have a lot of time to really sit down and think and linger and rethink,” Seraj said, referring to the major economic problems the group is facing due to sanctions and lack of international recognition. of their government.

“The world is going to decide whether or not to recognize the Taliban, and a lot of that depends on their actions,” especially in keeping schools accessible to girls, she said. “They can’t hold the girls back.”

Seraj noted that some women fear retaliation from the Taliban, but many are also ready to use their voices they have found over the past 20 years.

“If they think for a second that we’re not going to raise our voices – we’re not going to ask for our rights, we’re not going to stand up for what is ours like ours – then that’s when ‘they are wrong,’ he added. she said.

“There’s no one in this world who can stand in front of them and say, ‘You don’t have the right to do this.'”

WATCH | The Taliban are wrong to doubt the resilience of Afghan women, Seraj says:

Taliban are wrong to doubt Afghan women’s resilience, activist says

Mahbouba Seraj, director of the Afghan Women’s Network, told CBC’s Susan Ormiston that Afghan women will stand up for their rights despite the Taliban’s return to power. 0:55

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