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Originally published in Prospect
‘With British forces leaving the last UK base in Afghanistan, a new fight for control between the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and the Taliban is about to begin. On one side, women’s freedom is essential in winning the battle; for the other side, however, it is their complete subjugation.
I recently met several of Afghanistan’s bravest; a handful of women who have been forced to live in constant fear simply for bringing girls and women out of the home. An underground gynaecologist, a girls’ school headmistress and a young women’s rights activist; they are scattered across different parts of the country, yet their stories are similar.
They each frequently receive letters from the Taliban warning them that if they do not stop they will be killed. Yet, they choose to do it anyway, betraying the Taliban’s unofficial motto, that “there are only two places for a woman: the house and the grave.” Yet, the further their work progresses, the higher their heads move above the parapet—catching the attention of their enemies.
Take head mistress Parwin Wafa, who runs a secondary school for 1800 students aged seven to seventeen in the rural Laghman province near Kabul. As punishment for her work educating girls, her seventeen-year-old son Homayoon was kidnapped by the Taliban. They would call her and threaten her that, unless she closed her school, her son would be murdered. Over a year later, after months of searching graveyards, Parwin was sent Homayoon’s body, marked with signs of torture. They had “strangled him and riddled his body with bullets, leaving him in a deserted land”, she told me…’
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