Afghan activist in hiding from the Taliban vows to keep teaching women and girls

An Afghan woman who set up a nonprofit organization to educate girls and women says she will fight to continue teaching even in the face of resistance from the Taliban.

She spoke to Yahoo News from an undisclosed location in Afghanistan.

“I’m not fearful, because fear is only good when you fear God, not people,” the woman said.

If the militant group tries to stop women and girls from learning in schools and leaving the house, the activist says, she will attempt to give digital lessons to women across the country.

“If [the Taliban stop us,] we have to evolve,” she said. “We have to come up with different strategies. If they don’t let us have physical classes, we will go with online ones. Everything has a solution, and we are going to work on it.”

The activist, who received the Malala Fund Education Champion award for her work, is currently in hiding after Taliban fighters seized the capital city of Kabul, took over the presidential palace and declared victory on Sunday.

Her comments came a day after a spokesperson for the Taliban was pressed on the rights of women and girls under their rule at a press conference on Tuesday.

During their previous regime in Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001, the militant group introduced strict rules and punishments under their interpretation of Sharia. The law acts as both the fundamental religious moral code of Islam and holistic rules that apply to all areas of life, including religious obligations, daily routines and personal beliefs.

Women had to wear the all-covering burka, girls aged 10 and over were halted from going to school, and women who were unaccompanied in public places could be beaten.

During the press conference, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid tried to settle fears over the rights of women under the new regime, and said that if Afghan women “continue to live according to Sharia ... we will be happy, they will be happy.”

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, center, leaves after his first news conference, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. (Rahmat Gul/AP Photo)
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid, center, at a news conference in Kabul on Tuesday. (Rahmat Gul/AP)

“We are going to allow women to work and study within our frameworks,” he said. “Women are going to be very active within our society.”

But she said she didn’t believe the Taliban’s stance on women would change.

“Right now those words are not what is happening on the ground,” Durrani told Yahoo News. “Right now girls are at home, some girls are not going to university. [The Taliban] have said this many times, that ‘we’re going to respect human rights, women’s rights and educational rights,’ but I want to see something concrete in action.”

The activist has spoken to media outlets at a time when many women in the country are fearful of speaking out. She said she doesn’t want media coverage of the country to be dictated by men.

“Now is the time we take our space, we raise our voices, we make sure that we are heard,” she told Yahoo News. “And somebody has to do the talking; if I don’t talk right now, my university will never reopen.”

Though her own family and friends have raised concerns for her well-being, she remains resilient.

“[The Taliban] leaders don’t want to be shamed by the whole world for murdering me,” she said, “but then there are foot soldiers that would love to kill someone who has Westernized ideas or who is asking for liberties.

A Taliban fighter walks past a beauty saloon with images of women defaced using a spray paint in Shar-e-Naw in Kabul on August 18, 2021. (Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images)
A Taliban fighter walks past a beauty salon in Kabul on Wednesday with images of women defaced using spray paint. (Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images)

“I have to keep my hope, because one way or the other, women are strong, they’re fierce, they are educated and they will make sure that we get through this together,” the activist said. “If somebody is weak, if somebody is afraid, if somebody is fearful, we will make sure that we stand together and we will make sure that we stand by each other, we will get through this.”

The return of Taliban rule in Afghanistan marks an end to almost 20 years of a U.S.-led coalition’s presence in the country.

President Biden has been criticized by some for what they see as an unorganized pullout of U.S. troops in the region, which has led to the instability.

She said Biden’s actions were “very undignified,” and that she believes the president could have done a lot more to stop the Taliban from leveraging power.

Biden “could have used the political influence and leverage in Doha to push [the Taliban] to accept the women’s rights, educational rights, and at the same time, make them put it in practice,” she said, referring to the deal the U.S. signed with the Taliban last year.


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