Gun-toting Afghan women are marching in the streets and sharing pictures in a show of defiance against the Taliban, which is rapidly gaining control over a significant portion of the war-torn nation.
It comes as President Joe Biden’s administration, according to the US officials, is considering offering an expedited visa path for vulnerable Afghans including women politicians, journalists, and activists, who may become targets of the Taliban.
Rights groups have been asking the US State Department and White House to add up to 2,000 visas for vulnerable women and women’s advocates after the US military pullout. One of the officials said the administration is looking not only at women who are under threat, but also men and minorities in high-risk professions.
The Taliban has already been claiming that it now controls over a quarter of Afghanistan’s districts as the US and Nato forces withdraw from the South Asian nation after their anti-terror war for 20 years.
The deadline that the US has set for having troops out of Afghanistan is 11 September, which will mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.
Media reports have highlighted instances of armed women, in northern and central Afghanistan, marching in the streets to show their defiance against the Taliban.
Last weekend, one such demonstration took place in the central Ghor province, with hundreds of women joining the march, many waving guns and chanting anti-Taliban slogans, according to The Guardian.
Head of the women’s directorate in Ghor, Halima Parastish, who also participated in the march, said that there were some women who “just wanted to inspire security forces, just symbolic, but many more were ready to go to the battlefields”.
“That includes myself. I and some other women told the governor around a month ago that we’re ready to go and fight,” she said.
The show of defiance also comes in response to restrictions women have faced under Taliban rule, with the Taliban having already brought in restrictions on women’s education, freedom of movement and clothing in areas under their control, according to The Guardian.
In one area, the newspaper reported, flyers had been going around demanding that women wear burqas.
The report quoted a survey that held that even women from extremely conservative rural areas aspire to freedom of motion, education, and a greater role in their families. However, that may not be possible under the rule of the Taliban.
While, in Ghor, women usually wear headscarves rather than covering themselves fully and work alongside men in fields, the Taliban has demanded that women do not leave their homes without a male guardian, in addition to blocking them from accessing education.
Several human rights groups have already highlighted the issue, with Human Rights Watch warning in April that women appearing on the television and radio have faced particular threats.
“Female reporters may be targeted not only for issues they cover but also for challenging perceived social norms prohibiting women from being in a public role and working outside the home,” it had said.
A female journalist from northern Jowzjan, which has a history of women fighting, said she just wants to continue her education and stay away from the violence but the conditions forced her and others to take a stand.
“I don’t want the country under the control of people who treat women the way they do. We took up the guns to show if we have to fight, we will,” said the journalist, who is in her 20s, but sought anonymity to protect her identity. She has already received training on the handling of weapons.
There are numerous examples of women taking up arms, and over the last 20 years, women have also joined Afghanistan’s security forces even though they continue to face discrimination from colleagues.
The Taliban are, however, has dismissed the demonstrations, with spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid saying: “Women will never pick up guns against us. They are helpless and forced by the defeated enemy. They can’t fight.”
Extra reporting by businesses