In recent weeks, there has been a lively debate among Afghans about which prominent figure among our female compatriots deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. Some have suggested women holding official positions before the 2021 Taliban takeover of Kabul. Others have supported women’s rights activists in exile.
Still others mention Fatima Amiri, a 17-year-old girl who survived the September 30 bombing of the Kaj Educational Center in the Dasht-e-Barchi district of Kabul. The attack killed dozens of students, mostly girls, who had gathered at the private school to take a mock exam for the Kankor exam, which is required for admission to public universities in Afghanistan.
Despite being traumatized, suffering from serious injuries and mourning the loss of her classmates, she took the Kankor exam and scored over 85 percent, making her eligible to study her favorite subject, computer science, in college from Kabul – something she is no longer allowed to do. doing.
Indeed, Fatima has emerged as a symbol of women’s and girls’ struggle for their rights under the Taliban regime.
As a father of two girls, I am constantly worried about my children’s present and future. But young women like Fatima and others I see or hear about in my daily life give me hope that things will change.
Since the Taliban took Kabul, the government has imposed several restrictions on women. Afghan girls are not allowed to attend secondary school and university, or even private educational institutions. Afghan women are prohibited from going to parks, gyms and other public places and from working in non-governmental organizations and certain government institutions. Also, they are not allowed to travel alone and must cover from head to toe in public.
As a result, places in Kabul that used to be bustling with women and girls are now almost completely dominated by men. Many coffee shops that used to be the favorite hangout spot for girls and women have had to close their doors as they have lost many of their customers. Parks no longer like crowds because men can’t go there with their family or girlfriends, and many beauty parlors have gone out of business because women don’t like going there.
But Afghan girls and women have stood up to the injustice of their rights to education, work and access to public spaces. They have protested in many cities, especially in Kabul, to demand their rights.
However, the Taliban authorities have responded with an increasingly harsh crackdown, and some protesters and activists have been arrested and imprisoned.
For example, activist Zarifa Yaqubi was arrested last November after trying to set up a women’s rights movement. She was held for 40 days.
When I spoke to Zarifa last month, she held back tears and refused to talk about her imprisonment for fear. She told me she was traumatized and had to take medication and receive psychological care.
She said the world is unwilling to support Afghan girls and their struggle, and only pronounces empty condemnations. According to her, the international response to Iranian women’s protests was much more powerful and visible.
But Afghan women do not give up. Girls and young women are beginning to flock to secret schools run by courageous teachers. Others have joined online classes organized on messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram.
When the Taliban banned private educational institutions in December 2022, I joined other volunteers to teach English to high school and college girls. Information about online classes spreads through word of mouth and if there are enough students, we bring them together in a WhatsApp or Telegram group.
We record the lessons and send them as voice messages, along with other teaching materials, in these apps and give them home assignments. They download the lessons, listen, do their homework, and then send it back the same way.
Women have not given up work either. Despite restrictions and harassment, women continue to run their own businesses – such as beauty salons and cosmetic stores – and some even work as street vendors. Women also continue to work as nurses and doctors in hospitals and teachers in primary schools.
Afghan women abroad also contribute to the struggle. A number of activists, journalists and former officials who have fled the country are working tirelessly to keep the Afghan women’s cause on the international agenda.
They speak out about the imprisonment and torture experienced by Afghan women and dispute the Taliban’s claims that their decision to restrict women is based on religious considerations. This pressure adds to the continued international reluctance to recognize the Taliban government and normalize relations with it.
Indeed, Afghan women have shown incredible courage, resilience and dignity in their fight for their rights. They are challenging an armed group and a ruthless government that many Afghan men have not resisted. I know when my girls grow up they will have plenty of Afghan heroines to look up to.
The world must recognize the courage of these women and girls and support them in their struggle. They more than deserve the Nobel Peace Prize.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial view of Al Jazeera.