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Afghan Artist Praises Compatriots for Standing up for Education Rights

© AP Photo / Ebrahim NorooziA Taliban fighter stands guard as a woman enters the government passport office in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, April 27, 2022. Afghanistan's Taliban leadership has ordered all Afghan women to wear the all-covering burqa in public.
A Taliban fighter stands guard as a woman enters the government passport office in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, April 27, 2022. Afghanistan's Taliban leadership has ordered all Afghan women to wear the all-covering burqa in public.  - Sputnik India, 1920, 10.01.2023
The Taliban* in Afghanistan have banned girls from secondary education and barred women from long-distance travel without a male chaperone, working outside, and going to public parks.
The latest decision to suspend girls' university education came as a serious blow to the women's rights of the past two decades in the country. It resulted in an outcry from university students across Afghanistan and protests by Afghans living abroad.
Sputnik reached out to a young Afghan female visual artist to discuss the current situation and find out why is the Taliban implementing such policies.
In a conversation with Sputnik, Hanifa Alizada, an Afghan photographer and visual artist currently living and working in France, shared her stance on the situation in her motherland.
Hanifa raises awareness regarding the plea of Afghan women via the existing tribunals in Bordeaux, her current hometown. Despite being in France, Hanifa said that her heart is in Afghanistan with all her Afghan sisters who are struggling for their future.
Sputnik: What were your reaction and feelings when you heard that the Taliban ordered public and private universities to suspend women's access to universities until further notice?
Hanifa: I was not at all shocked by the ban of girls' schools nor closure of public universities for women by the Taliban. In fact, I never expected the Taliban to do anything other than imprison women and deprive them of their basic rights, as being anti-women is the essence of their existence. I kind of expected the gradual suppression of women in society when they entered Kabul in mid-2021. What shocks me more is the world that trusts terrorists and expects a misogynist group like the Taliban to respect women's rights. All my Afghan sisters, about 20 million human beings, a whole nation and the future Afghan generation are affected by this situation.
A classroom that previously was used for girls sits empty in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022. - Sputnik India, 1920, 28.12.2022
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Sputnik: There were reports that male students boycotted exams after their female colleagues were not allowed to enter universities and dozens of teachers have resigned in response to the Taliban's orders, it seems that Afghan society is standing up to the Taliban. Will it achieve anything in your opinion?
Hanifa: Afghan society was standing up in the 1990s also and they resisted by raising their voices before the US-Taliban Doha Peace Deal was signed without the Afghan government and in the absence of Afghan women's voices. The marginalization of Afghan women in the process of the peace deal was very much deliberate. So I am not very optimistic about the Afghan people's voices. Afghanistan and Afghan women's rights were given to the Taliban in Doha, while Afghan people are left alone before the morbid silence of the world. We could see the change when the world stops supporting the Taliban, sanctions the countries who support them and stands in solidarity with the people.
Sputnik: To clarify to our readers it is important to mention that Islam is not against women's education, on the other hand, education is appreciated for all, as it is the basis for future economic development - why then do you think the Taliban wants to implement such policies?
Hanifa: It is important to know who the Taliban is and how it emerged. It is a terrorist group trained, armed and supported by Pakistan, US and Saudi Arabia in the 1990s to fight against Russia. Afghan people are religious but it's not fair to tighten up the religious side of their identity with the misogynist ideology of the Taliban as the last one is more of a political tool.
The Taliban today in power in Afghanistan were all “the most wanted terrorists” by the US and their names are not yet erased from the international black lists. The US attacked Afghanistan in 2001 to fight these terrorists. The majority of them in high-rank posts in Afghanistan today were in Guantanamo, Islamabad and Afghanistan prisons.
The same people with extreme Islamic ideologies were freed by the US and brought back to Doha, given recognition around the peace talk tables, and essentially given a country with about 40 million people.
I believe that notions like women's rights, religion, Afghan culture and human rights are the cold shields that they use for following their political benefits in the proxy war going on in Afghanistan. It's unfortunate that Afghan women and the Afghan nation are the first line of victims, as the war is so deliberately programmed against their lives, despite their struggle to change the situation.
Sputnik: Stripping women of their fundamental rights will lead to their deteriorating mental health and cause issues such as depression. What can be done to help them? Is there any message that you want conveyed to Afghan women?
Hanifa: Yes, Afghan women are shown as victims in most international media, but they are the true incarnation of courage and bravery. The streets of Kabul, Mazar, Bamiyan, Herat will remember the combat of its women who still protest with empty hands against the Taliban and their international supporters.
Sputnik: Do you think US intervention and its presence in Afghanistan for 20 years made things better or worse for the general public?
Hanifa: The US and its allies justified their war in Afghanistan by the liberation of Afghan women in 2021. Anyhow, relative security was a collateral benefit of the war against terrorism for Afghan people. The situation was not ideal but there was progression and hope. Apart from most conservative or insecure areas, women could live, work and study. There was hope that conservative people were open towards modernization and education.
After 20 years as a consequence of the Doha deal, Afghan women were brought back to the 1990s by the same people who attacked our country under the pretext of liberating us. I do not compare the situation with the 1990s. Today, Afghans die for being women, for being minorities. They die of hunger. They die because they love. They die because they want to live. It couldn't be worse than that.
Sputnik: Who are the Taliban of today? Have they changed since they last took over Afghanistan in the late 1990s or has their worldview remained the same despite the fact that they now own smartphones, have social media accounts and drive around in nice cars?
Hanifa: They are former Guantanamo prisoners, the most wanted terrorists, responsible for the death of 600,000 Afghans, the Taliban are allies of the US ruling our country. The notion that the "Taliban have changed" was created by Zalmay Khalilzad, the US envoy to Doha, and went viral instead of Afghan women’s voices. (Zalmay Mamozy Khalilzad is an Afghan-US diplomat and foreign policy expert, who was appointed by President Donald Trump to serve as US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation in September 2018.)
In my opinion, it is a manner of whitewashing the Taliban by the great international media. Every time I read or hear this phrase I can't stop thinking about Madina La'li, Rahela, the newborn babies who got killed in a maternity hospital in Kabul, and many other images of innocent Afghan kids killed by them.
Sputnik: The population of Afghanistan has doubled in size since the 1990s. Afghans today are more aware and their expectations of a free life are higher, so why are the government and people unable to overthrow the Taliban rule?
Hanifa: Afghans did not fight to defend themselves is also a fiction or propaganda to whitewash the Taliban. It seems that two factors played a major role to enable the Taliban to come back to power. First, the US-Taliban Doha peace deal which never answered Afghans' questions and in contrast promised the Taliban, the Afghan land and its population. Secondly, the corrupted government of Ashraf Ghani that kept targeting those who had a significant role for Afghan people’s rights.
Also, it's important to highlight that our neighboring countries hosting the world's most dangerous terrorists on the red carpets encouraged the Taliban and discouraged the Afghan government, particularly the Afghan forces. The US left about $85 billion worth of weapons to the Taliban, while Afghans fought with their pens and words under a catastrophic dictatorship since the year 2021.
* under UN sanctions
The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the speaker and do not necessarily represent the position of Sputnik.