Massouda Kohistani and Khadija Amin fled Afghanistan for fear of the Taliban’s repression. They took refuge in Spain, where they met. Kohistani is a women and human rights activist. After the Taliban took over Kabul, she supported networks of women who wanted to be evacuated and was also involved in the organization of the first protests of female university students. Meanwhile, after working for four years as a journalist for various Afghan media, Amin, was a presenter and reporter on the Afghan news until she was prevented from working. However, the overwhelming majority of Afghans have not been lucky enough to be able to leave the country and are living under Taliban rule. On 13 October, the two women took part in the presentation of Women at the forefront in Madrid. You can find below the full interview where both of them share their personal testimonies about the dramatic situation of Afghanistan and call to the international community to “please not recognise the Taliban terrorists as the government”.
The violation of human rights and women’s freedom in Afghanistan
Kohistani and Amin are the face and voice of millions of Afghan women. Both agree that the Taliban have not fulfilled their supposed promise to respect human rights. They agree that the radicalism and cruelty of the Taliban is still intact twenty years later and they denounce the continuous attacks on the population, particularly women, repression of citizen protests and a tight media control that curtails press freedom. Above all, they call on the EU and the international community to not believe the Taliban’s empty promises. They ask to not recognise them. The Taliban are limiting women’s freedom and participation in public life. A step backwards in the rights that, according to them, many women have worked so hard to win since the fall of the previous fundamentalist regime (1996-2001): “Under Taliban rule, women cannot work, girls are not allowed to go to school. We are seen only as caregivers,” says Amin. Kohistani calls for protection for all women who, like her, had to leave the country seeking refuge and for those who still are in the country unable to continue their lives. Grateful for having managed to get on a plane and save her life, she states that “refugee women have lost all our achievements and the position reached in our countries of origin. We are nothing, we have to start from scratch”, and she calls for attention to this situation and help to recover a formal activity that dignifies them.
Press freedom and social media in Afghanistan
The media, now in the service of the fundamentalists, are at the centre of Taliban propaganda. Amin explain that in recent years “many journalists have been working for human rights, democracy and progress; however, now they are threatened for it”. The lives of those who have not been able to flee the country are in grave danger.
For Kohistani, the ideology and behaviour of the Taliban has not changed. “What has changed are the social networks: unlike 12 years ago, Afghans have access to social networks from anonymous profiles where they can express themselves more freely and get information through digital and social media,” she says.
How the European Union and the international community should act
While the Taliban continue to demand international recognition, the European Union plans to not recognise the Taliban’s interim government in Afghanistan, but deliver humanitarian aid.
Amin recalls the harsh economic conditions faced by Afghans, but warns that the international community cannot turn a blind eye to the human rights violations committed by the Taliban or normalise the violation of women’s rights.
To maintain our commitment to the Afghan people in general, and to Afghan women in particular, “the European Union must organise an international conference on the problems of Afghan women, to show how dramatic our situation is in Afghanistan,” Kohistani adds.