Turning women into victims and rescuing them has proved a successful strategy in the Af-Pak region.
New Delhi: Can a miracle happen for Afghan women? These are still early days.
It was widely reported recently that the Taliban forces fired pepper spray at a group of women protesters in Kabul demanding the right to education and work.
Was it all surprising? Women in Afghanistan have been resisting the new Taliban rulers since August 2021 itself. In the first week of September last year, just about three weeks after the fall of Kabul, women in Herat and Kabul staged protests, and their demand was the inclusion in the new government. The women were put 'indoors' and behind the purdah, but these did not dampen their spirit.
Observers would say the 'Afghan women' had a significant role in the 1990s when the Taliban actually could 'take over' and taste popularity and power for the first time.
'Existential crisis' and the fight with the back on the wall may not be similar to the 'if they do not have bread, let them eat cake' story of the French revolution. Nevertheless, there have been instances of a valiant fightback by Afghan women over the years. They have resisted 'Russian puppets' and US-sponsors of so-called motivated 'Jihadists'. In other words, they have seen it all and have been giving a run for their money (read masculine prowess) to the Taliban and other Afghan men.
One former Afghan woman journalist recently asked, "Which Taliban are you talking about… one at home or outside?" This presents a new narrative of the war-ravaged country. Women in Afghanistan are fighting male chauvinism, even at home.
The legend goes that a notorious warlord in Kandahar in the 1990s had kidnapped two newlywed women. A vengeful group of Madrasa students (the Taliban, yes, that's the origin) spontaneously emerged and marched from Kandahar to Kabul and later took control of the country.
Pakistani writer Syed Irfan Ashraf says: "Turning women into victims and then rescuing them has proved a successful strategy in the Af-Pak region."
The story of Meena Keshwar Kamal, founder of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), is well known. This organisation has been a progressive face of resistance.
True, many lost their lives, yet they have not given up courage and hope to see a 'forward-looking Afghanistan'. A viral video shows a 'secret school' run by women in Kabul.
In the viral video, one Afghan woman says: "You can be locked at home. Nothing to worry…. explore the virtual world without any hesitation, without worrying about geographical boundaries. That's the beauty of the power of technology."
Importantly, UNICEF says after the ouster of the Taliban in 2001 that school attendance rose rapidly, and 3.6 million girls enrolled by 2018.
Amjad Ayub Mirza, an exiled PoJK activist who lives in Glasgow, said last year the protest by women was significant.
Even a group of women under the aegis of the Political Participation Network had marched on the street in front of Afghanistan's Finance Ministry in Kabul and raised slogans.
Do not underestimate the power of women; is that the story? It may be too early and too little! But most revolutions emerge from the foundation of magic mixed with courage and determination. Some of these elements are already visible in Afghanistan.