"Afghanistan's Strong Women": Event in Vienna Draws Attention to the Situation of Women in Afghanistan

More+Events ♦ Published: October 4, 2022; 10:43 ♦ (Vindobona)

The event "Afghanistan's Strong Women" focused on women's rights in Afghanistan, which have been steadily deteriorating since the Taliban took power. Now the event, organised among others by the Austrian Parliament, wants to give a platform to those who fight against this injustice and work day by day to restore the rights of women in Afghanistan.

The event addressed the severely restricted women's rights in Afghanistan and gave a platform to activists and fighters for women's rights. / Picture: © Thomas Topf / © Parlamentsdirektion

Since the Taliban took power again in Afghanistan a year ago, women and girls in particular have been fighting for their freedom and rights. Despite several promises by the Taliban leadership to respect the rights of women and girls, their situation in the country is continuously deteriorating.

Now, some of these intrepid fighters for women's rights in Afghanistan were the focus of the event "Afghanistan's Strong Women: One Year of Resistance against Taliban Rule", which Second National Council President Doris Bures hosted in the Parliament together with the Think Tank Vienna Institute for International Dialogue and Cooperation (VIDC) and the NGO "Frauen ohne Grenzen" / "Women without Borders" (WwB). The women gave insights into their current situation in their home country and in exile and reported on their resistance.

The takeover of power by the Taliban in August 2021 has been the repetition of a nightmare for many, especially for women. Despite everything, there are courageous, strong-willed women in solidarity who do not give up and give hope to others through their work. Despite their hardship, they do everything in their power to fight for the women in their country.

However, in order to improve the situation of women in Afghanistan, the international community also needs commitment, support and perseverance.

It is not a matter of course to look at the situation of women at the other end of the world, said Sybille Straubinger, Director of the Vienna Institute for International Dialogue and Cooperation (VIDC).

Unfortunately, the media spotlight quickly turns to the next crisis. That is why part of her work is not to let the situation in Afghanistan be forgotten, "because the women of Afghanistan give hope, give courage and they belong," said Straubinger.

For Laura Kropiunigg, Executive Director of Women without Borders (WwB), the women in Afghanistan are "political prisoners of a system that accuses them of one thing: they are women". She spoke of a gender apartheid that is enforced by force. Women who resist are persecuted, abducted, raped or killed, Kropiunigg said.

The Taliban's seizure of power affects all people in Afghanistan, said the Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to Austria, Manizha Bakhtari, in her welcoming remarks.

But women and girls are particularly affected, their rights disappearing before their eyes. Discrimination occurs every day, for example when women are not allowed to go to school or to work or have to adhere to strict dress codes. The regime meets protests with violence.

But Afghans are still strong, said Bakhtari, who called on the international community to support women in Afghanistan. The ambassador also used her speech to observe a minute's silence in memory of the victims of an attack on a school in Kabul last Friday.

Insights into the current situation of Afghan women and girls

Several women gave impressive accounts of how women and girls in Afghanistan are currently living and resisting under the Taliban regime and in exile. Two women recorded video messages in Afghanistan - under aliases and partly without being able to show their faces. One of them, a civil rights activist, speaks of the systematic exclusion of women from all areas of public life. She herself has been deprived of all her rights and is constantly threatened with violence.

The second woman, a PhD student in sociology, tells of her method of resistance. She has founded a book club for women because she wants to equip women with knowledge and mental strength. Both women accused the international community of remaining silent and leaving the Afghan women alone.

Living in two worlds

Women's rights activist Husna Jalal is also working in exile for women's rights in Afghanistan. The daughter of the first woman to run for the presidency in Afghanistan, she currently lives in the Netherlands.

When the Taliban came to power, all the progress of the past 20 years was lost. Women have lost their basic human rights. The Taliban would want to prevent girls and women from getting education and raising their voices. But they would overlook the fact that today's women will not write off their country.

They would use any non-violent protest to fight for the country that has been built over the past 20 years. Nevertheless, Jalal also emphatically called for concrete action by the international community. She said it was necessary to put pressure on the Taliban through sanctions so that the rights of women and girls would be restored.

Austrian Parliament