‘I would rather die for the dignity of women than die for nothing’

Afghanistan at war with Afghan women.

For women and girls across Afghanistan, conditions are worsening – and those women who dare to publicly oppose the traditional order now live in fear for their lives. The Afghan MP Shukria Barakzai receives regular death threats for speaking out on women’s issues. Talking at her home in central Kabul, she closed the living room door as her three young daughters played in the hall. “You can’t imagine what it feels like as a mother to leave the house each day and not know if you will come back again,” she said, her eyes welling up as she spoke. “But there is no choice. I would rather die for the dignity of women than die for nothing. Should I stop my work because there is a chance I might be killed? I must go on, and if it happens it happens.”

A brave woman. There is a choice of course – but she’s refusing to make it. An extremely brave woman.

Barakzai receives frequent but cryptic warnings about planned suicide attacks on her car, but no help from the government. Officials advise her to stay at home and not go to work, but offer nothing in the way of security assistance, despite her requests. She said warlords in parliament who received similar threats were immediately provided with armoured vehicles, armed guards and a safe house by the government.

Really. Male warlords get massive protection, women who work for women’s rights are left hanging out there with no protection. Bastards, bastards, bastards.

Afghan women are feeling increasingly vulnerable as the security situation worsens and a growing number of western and Afghan officials call for the Taliban to join the government. “We are very worried that, now the government is talking with the Taliban, our rights will be compromised,” said Shinkai Karokhail, an outspoken MP for Kabul. “We must not be the sacrifice by which peace with the Taliban is made.”

Really. I’ve been flinching for weeks as people talk about negotiating with the Taliban – pointing out cheerily that the Taliban is not Al Qaeda. No, it’s not, but it’s not a cocker spaniel puppy, either!

Afghan women who defy traditional gender roles and speak out against the oppression of women are routinely subject to threats, intimidation and assassination. An increasingly powerful Taliban regularly attacks projects, schools and businesses run by women…Talking to the Guardian at a safe house on the outskirts of Kabul, Mullah Zubiallah Akhond, a Taliban commander from the southern province of Uruzgan, said the group’s attacks on women were always political and not based on any desire to target or punish women specifically.

Oh right, no of course not, certainly not, no indeed those ‘political’ attacks on women obviously have nothing to do with any desire to target or punish women specifically – they’re just based on a desire to keep women confined, invisible, helpless, and enslaved, and to kill or burn any woman who resists.

[T]here had also been a sharp increase in rapes by men who claimed they could not afford to pay the dowry needed to marry. After the public shame of an attack, the victim is usually outcast and the rapist is then the only man who will have the woman as his wife. It is crimes like this that make many Afghans nostalgic for the harsh justice of Taliban rule. Barakzai countered: “Women were safe, in one sense, under the Taliban – but they were kept as slaves, they were not allowed to do what they wanted even in their own home.”

Here’s a daring ambition – for Afghan women to be both safe and free. Imagine that.

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