The women of Afghanistan

What can we do to help
the women of Afghanistan
who have been told
to go home
to cover themselves 
who themselves know
they must abandon 
their studies
their career goals
their hopes and dreams?
Imagine it was you in that position:
would you want a war
would you fight it
would you put your freedom on the line?
I can’t condone a war but the world can’t stand by
and let these men win
it’s a conundrum:
what to do?
Send other men in?
If women ruled this never would have happened, but
for heaven’s sake let’s not
let it

I was horrified

…by tales of women fleeing their universities and burning their degrees and diplomas as the Taliban took over Afghanistan. It is chilling to think that women can be treated like this in the present day, though I know that women’s rights are either threatened or non-existent in many places all around the world. I don’t think the international community can stand by and say it’s ok for women to have their rights curtailed. It could happen to any one of us in this case. Whenever people try to say we have equality, remember how many women around the world do not. And remember how hard we fought to get it, and how easily it can be lost if we don’t continue to fight for it.

81 thoughts on “The women of Afghanistan

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      1. i don’t watch the show but I read the book years ago. It’s good it gives people a way of unpicking the abuse and oppression of women. Awareness is such a powerful way of opening the way for social change.
        What has really shocked me about Afghanistan is what it says about global politics as well as attitudes to women. I think it will have big repercussions on many levels.

      2. I’ve read the book twice and just started watching the show. I think she researched life for women in Iran at the time and some other countries where they were being oppressed. I can only conclude that some men feel threatened by women’s capabilities so they use their physical strength against them. It’s like domestic violence on an international scale.

  1. I am shocked and horrified too Ingrid.we feel so helpless don’t we. Like you say, what can we do? There must be SOMETHING. If the whole of the free world got together something could maybe be done, but in many ways this feeling against women pervades in so many places even the so called free world. No, we don’t want war. But is there anothr way? I do not know. I hope this post makes sense.

      1. How can we make them care Ingrid? Sometimes I think that people just say “Oh, that is them in that country but we can’t do anything about it.” I have known some women who were in less bad situations but still bad. Many of them clever, intelligent women. But unfree. It is just awful.

      2. I know Ingrid. I discovered a lot when my world expanded a lot through my academic studies. I met women who opened my eyes. It is actuallycso ingrained even in so called emancipated countries. Sad.

      3. I did think about making one called ‘Protest Songs’ – but it’s only an idea in my head at the moment…

      4. Ingrid, that is a brilliant idea. I’d do it myself – as you did with your Anthology, but, being blind, I couldn’t do it. I do love the idea of Songs though. I will join in if we can get that idea going and get people interested

      5. We’ll do it then ingrid. I know ow much hard work it is, but wortg it for those suffering. We need to fet some more people on board. No udea how to do that. I’ll do what I can ❤️

  2. It’s people, period. These people have been told to invest in the American dream for 20 years, and have just had it pulled away from under them. I might be sad for the women one day, but I’m not done with being angry yet.

    It does make me wonder – how badly must we (for it was the UK, too) have administered this country such that it falls to our ideological opposites in two seconds flat?

    1. I’m angry for the women. I’m not going to get into how we got into this mess in the first place, but we sure as hell shouldn’t be abandoning those women now.

      1. I am sure the men are threatened too, but it is a misogynistic society and I don’t think it’s ok to deny women an education or the right to work.

    1. It’s such a mess the whole situation, and I don’t claim to have the solution but if I was trapped there I would hope the world would not stand by and accept it.

  3. All in name of of extremist religion… because the men believe their god is better … but better than WHAT ??
    Although I read about some very brave female News-readers in Afghanistan today …

    “Tolo News, Afghanistan’s most popular 24-hour news channel, resumed its broadcast with female anchors on Tuesday and one even interviewed a Taliban official, a stunning sight considering how much women’s rights were stifled under their previous rule.

    The channel’s head of news Miraqa Popal made the announcement in a tweet.

    “Our female presenter is interviewing a Taliban media team member live in our studio,” Tolo’s head of news, Miraqa Popal, wrote on Twitter.

    Earlier on, Popal said: “We resumed our broadcast with female anchors today. @TOLOnews #Afghanistan.” Popal said, adding a photo of a female anchor presenting the news on the channel to his tweet.

    Beheshta Arghand, a female television anchor for Tolo, interviewed the Taliban official on camera on Tuesday in the channel’s studio, asking about the situation in Kabul and the Taliban’s house searches in the capital.

    However, CNN reported on Monday that the homes of two female journalists were visited by Taliban fighters on Sunday and that both of them were shaken psychologically.

    Citing sources, the news channel reported that one of the journalists said she was “very worried about my safety and that of my family.” Several female journalists are said to have received threatening calls from the Taliban.

    On Monday, Amnesty International’s Secretary-General, Agnès Callamard, said the “tragedy” in Afghanistan will be made worse if the international community didn’t act quickly.

    “Thousands of Afghans are at serious risk of Taliban reprisals – from academics and journalists to activists and women human rights defenders – and are in danger of being abandoned to a deeply uncertain future,” she said.

      1. I am basically naive in my overall knowledge of middle-eastern cultures and their religions … of which I shouldn’t be ignorant … but I am not arrogant, nor complacent about how this will the future of our world …

      1. man Ingrid and I wish there was an easy answer but I shake my head every way and truly haven’t a clue. The sky is falling and our tears run red.. I wish i knew. xo 💖💖💖

  4. It is horrifying, and I also don’t know what we can do.

    I think there are people here in the US and all over the world that believe women should be treated that way. There is so much ignorance in the world.

  5. Ingrid, thank you for this post. I have been following events in Afghanistan with a heavy heart. The Taliban have said that they have changed. I doubt that. The only thing that I could think of that might help to mitigate the situation is if the international community stands together and pressures theTaliban to keep their promises. If the Afghan people resist, maybe similar to how the French resistance fought the Nazis in World War II, they can be given outside support. These are faint hopes.

    I wish the US had taken a different course twenty years ago, more carrot and less stick. I don’t know if diplomacy and aid would have helped to lift women up, but maybe. Anyway, we must act in the present, which is horrific.

    1. I think international pressure will be vital. I don’t agree with how the war started, but leaving civilians in this predicament isn’t right!

  6. Its such a bloody mess. The Taliban may say they have changed but let’s face it, the twisted ideas they have are very different to ours. Whatever happens be it diplomacy or sending troops back in people are going to die there. And the woman will be a lesser than the man. Do we turn our backs and leave them to it? Or do we go in? Its a shit awful situation with no easy answer.

    1. I agree, no easy answer. And I know there are other places like Saudi Arabia where women’s rights are severely restricted. I’m not comfortable with any of it really! No one says a thing about Saudi because they have so much money and oil, which is a whole other issue…

      1. Is it a cultural thing or just keeping women down? Either way it’s taking us backward. I was reading about this Sharia law malarkey. How is it ok to stone a woman to death? They are in the dark ages. How can you change that mentality?

      2. I read an editorial on this topic. It interests me as I write on patriarchy. It said that forward thinking policies and laws is many countries like in India often fail on the ground level, because some change cannot exceed internal social boundaries. So some part of the change has to come from within. From people who learn they can live with barriers and still be free in their minds. And find small ways that give them some leeway so they find happiness and they don’t put constraints on the next generation.

      3. That is a very interesting point, and I can see how change would have to come from within as well as from outside. I am sure this is very difficult in some cases.

      4. Yes, it is difficult. Even in societies like mine, where men are progressive and want women to move forward. And where we have a fair amount of freedom to live.

        It needs a tremendous amount of skill, independence, and an ability for self-acknowledgement because there always is pushback.

        I am currently writing a set of post on this – fiction based on reality in some sections of society. And trying to write in a way that highlights a way out, rather than just the problem.

      5. I don’t know to be honest. I don’t think people should have to learn to live with barriers and only be free in their minds. It just doesn’t feel right. In some countries I can’t see much changing unfortunately. How can anyone be free when they are scared of reprisals?

      6. I think the point is that there are women living under these conditions ‘voluntarily’ in other countries – perhaps because it is what family and society expects from them. So that kind of change needs to happen at an individual level. And I imagine it’s really tough to break out of that.

      7. I know what you mean Ingrid. A lot of these who live ‘ voluntarily’ are shackled by family and society. And to try and break away from that must be very difficult.

      8. What Ingrid said is what I meant in my earlier comment Vinny. And Ingrid, yes definitely. And also often because it’s a way that’s so familiar they’ve begun to expect it of themselves.

  7. Strong post and poem, Ingrid, with an engaging discussion. Another senseless situation that leaves most of us feeling helpless to solve, or even understand. Sometimes all we have are our words to express an outrage against extreme oppression. Certainly the swiftest action we can take. Your words are strong ones. I thought about these women during dance class last night and our freedom to move, dress, and express how we choose, man or woman. A freedom I do not take for granted, for many reasons.

    1. Thanks Michele – these were hard won freedoms and I think a lot of women don’t even realise the sacrifices other women made to get us there. Not the way it should be, but the way it is.

      1. That is so true, also for many reasons. As someone who worked in secondary education for many years, I can’t say there is an abundance of focus on the contributions, struggles, and accomplishments of women. Of course I did what I could, weaving in these lessons.

      2. I am sure you did! But when I think about it, there wasn’t a great deal of focus on it during my school days either. I grew up feeling equal to men, until I had children, and then this brings a whole new perspective.

      3. It makes me happy to read you had that upbringing, which will transfer to your own children. 🥰 Yes, becoming a mom sure does deliver many lessons and expanding perspectives.

  8. It is terrible. The images of people clinging to the bottoms of planes in desperation is horrifying. Yet they have been fighting in there for 20 years without advancing the lives of women. The sight of the Taliban with assault rifles in the hals of power is terrible. I am losing faith that human beings will ever evolve in time to save this world. Maybe we dont deserve to. Sigh. Thanks for writing about this situation. I have not yet found the words.

    1. I don’t agree with the fighting or the way the war was started either, but I do feel for these women who have been given a glimpse of another way of life only to have it torn from them.

  9. Dear Ingrid. It will get worst. Just like in Saigon in 1975. So many were killed because of education and supporting the USA. A unknown number were killed. The poor women had tasted some freedom. They must be silence or be killed. A terrible life for them.

  10. I can’t imagine what it is like to never feel the sun on one’s face and skin.

    To never have the freedom to dress so one can experience this. It’s a health issue and creates vitamin d deficiency, and a symbol of so much more.

    Afghanistan fell on our (India’s) Independence Day. So this year, it was gratitude for our freedom fighters and those that followed them to create our country. The country inherited by the India of today.

    And at this time, a tremendous worry and feat for the women in Afghanistan.

    May the God’s bless them and help them in their efforts to make visible the fact that their progress helps, rather than hinders that of society as a whole.

    1. I hadn’t even thought about it from this angle – but yes, to wear black in the sun must be extremely uncomfortable as well.

  11. Too many bad things have happened to women and still are. I wish in these times everyone and everything would be equal and treated with kindness and respect. Endearing post!

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