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Afghan women deserve the Nobel Peace Prize

Over the past few weeks, there has been a heated debate among Afghans about whether an outstanding figure among our female compatriots deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. Some have suggested that women held official positions before the Taliban took control of Kabul in 2021. Others have supported exiled women’s rights activists.

Still others have named Fatemeh Amiri, a 17-year-old girl who survived the Sept. 30 bombing of the Kaj Education Center in Kabul’s Dasht-e-Parchi district. The attack killed dozens of students, mostly girls, who had gathered at a private school to take a mock test for the Kankur exam, which is needed to enter public universities in Afghanistan.

Despite being traumatized, suffering a serious injury and mourning the loss of her classmates, she takes the Kankur exam and scores above 85 per cent, qualifying her to study her favorite subject, computer science, at Kabul University – something she is now barred from doing.

Indeed, Fatima has emerged as a symbol of the struggle of women and girls for their rights under the Taliban regime.

As a father of two, i constantly worried About the present and future of my children. 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 over Kabul, its government has imposed various restrictions on women. Afghan girls were prevented from attending high school, university, and even private educational institutions. Afghan women were banned Going to parks and gyms, and other public places and from employees of non-governmental organizations and some government institutions. them too He is not allowed to travel alone You must wear a covering from head to toe in public.

As a result, places in Kabul that used to be teeming with women and girls are now almost entirely dominated by men. Many coffee shops that were the favorite hangouts of girls and women had to close their doors, as they lost many of their customers. Parks no longer have the crowds, men can’t go there with their families or girlfriends, and many beauty salons are running out because women are reluctant to visit them.

But Afghan girls and women have resisted the injustice of being stripped of their rights to education, work and access to public spaces. they We have hero protests In many cities, especially Kabul, they are demanding their rights.

However, the Taliban authorities have responded with an increasingly harsh crackdown, and some protesters and activists have been arrested and imprisoned.

Activist Zarifa Yaqubi, for example, was arrested in November last year after trying to launch a movement for women’s rights. She was held for 40 days.

When I spoke to Zarifa last month, she held back her tears and refused to talk about her imprisonment out of fear. She told me she was traumatized and had to take medication and seek psychiatric care.

She said the world is unwilling to support Afghan girls and their struggle, and is issuing only empty condemnations. From her point of view, the international reaction to the Iranian women’s protests has been more forceful and visible.

But the Afghan woman did not give up. Girls and young women began flocking to secret schools led by brave teachers. Others have joined online classes organized on messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram.

When the Taliban announced a ban on private educational institutions in December 2022, I joined other volunteers to teach English to high school and university girls. Information about online classes spreads through word of mouth and when there are enough students, we bring them together in a WhatsApp or Telegram group.

We record lessons and send them as audio messages, along with other learning materials, in these apps and give them homework assignments. They download the lessons, listen, do their homework, and then submit it again in the same way.

The woman also did not give up work. Despite the restrictions and harassment, the women continue to run their own businesses – such as beauty salons and cosmetics stores – and some even work as street vendors. Women also continue to work as nurses and physicians in hospitals and as primary school teachers.

Afghan women abroad are also contributing to the struggle. A number of activists, journalists and former officials who fled the country are working tirelessly to keep the issue of Afghan women on the international agenda.

They talk about the imprisonment and torture Afghan women have faced and challenge Taliban claims that its decision to restrict women is based on religious considerations. This pressure contributes 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 challenge an armed group and a ruthless government that many Afghan men have failed to stand up to. I know that when my girls are older, they’ll have a lot of Afghan heroines to look up to.

The world needs to recognize the bravery of these women and girls and support them in their fight. They deserve more than the Nobel Peace Prize.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.

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