In Her Own Words

The Taliban dramatized for the world what happens when extremists can do what they want to exclude women from the most basic aspects of public life, including education and work.

The following are excerpts of statements made by Afghan women who fled the Taliban’s gender apartheid rule and compiled by the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan:

Young woman who was a teenager when the Taliban took control of her village:
“The Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan has been the most terrifying experience in my life. I remember with fear that day in 1995 when the Taliban took over my city, and life for women forever changed. I remember the day that I was forced to wear the burqa, the day schools were closed to women, the day learning and work became forbidden to women, and darkness engulfed the lives of all women living in Afghanistan. I remember that I was beaten by the Taliban for going to the public bath and the day women in my city demonstrated against the closing of public baths and schools. The Taliban retaliated by murdering ten of those women and arresting forty others, who since that day have not been seen.”

An Afghan woman beaten by the Taliban:
“During the first week of the Taliban’s capture of Kabul, friends and neighbors helped my family with shopping because I only had sisters and no brothers and my father was dead. One day I decided to go for shopping alone because my neighbors could no longer help with our shopping. I wore a long dress and covered my face and head with the chador. I went shopping for food at a market near my home. When I arrived at the market I was approached by a man with a long beard, a black turban, a gun on his shoulder, and a long stick in his hand. This man was Taliban. He asked me why I was out alone and who else was with me. When he saw that there was no man with me, I immediately tried to explain that I had no man in my house and that my family was without food to eat. The Talib would not listen to my explanations. He began to beat me with his stick as he shouted at me to go home and leave here. My entire body ached from the bruises and slashes of the stick.

An Afghan woman who escaped a Taliban death decree:
“The Taliban’s take over of Afghanistan affected women more than any other sector of Afghan society. Women suffer in Afghanistan because they are forced to abandon their social lives and live as prisoners in their own homes. Women suffer in Afghanistan because they no longer have their freedom of movement, freedom to work, freedom to be educated and the right to live free from violence. Widows, often times, are the sole providers for their families and suffer even more because of the Taliban’s edicts that outlaw women’s employment. Women watch their children suffer from malnutrition, disease, and even death. Women in Afghanistan suffer from war crimes because they are raped, murdered, trafficked, kidnapped, and forced to marry against their will.”

Following is a statement by Meme Isaac, a client of the Tahirih Justice Center, Falls Church, VA:

“My name is Meme Isaac. I am a Nigerian citizen, Christian by religious affiliation, and a secretary by profession.

“My community in Nigeria believes that if a girl is not circumcised, she will have loose morals, she will bring dishonor upon her family, and be unable to find a husband. (Circumcision) is performed by tribal elders in small villages in the most dangerous and merciless conditions. No anesthesia is permitted, no antiseptic is allowed, and no antibiotics are used. The instruments used – a dirty, rusty knife, razor or broken glass – are not sterilized.

“For me, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has meant excruciating pain, miscarriages, and other numerous health complications. For my sister, it meant death as a young child. For my aunt, it meant death from complications related to her mutilation during a pregnancy. For my cousin, it also meant death.

“FGM is just one of the many forms of violence against women that exist in the world today. It is my culture’s manifestation of the inequality of women and men, but all cultures around the world have their own manifestations of the subjugation of women. Women have been the most consistently and extremely oppressed group throughout the world’s history.

“It is time to change that. It is time for humanity to evolve and to enable the two distinct wings of women and men to be equally strong, so that together, they may fly towards the apex of prosperity. The international community must unite in its voice of opposition to the subjugation of women.

“The United States must be a part of the chorus supporting women in their struggle for equality. Without the United States’ ratifying the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, the United States will fail to fulfill its potential to lead the world spiritually in doing what is right and just. Rather, it will lag behind, along with Afghanistan and Sao Tome, in failing to formally recognize the rights of women.

“I have faith that the United States will, eventually, do the right thing and take its rightful place in the world as the upholder of the rights of the downtrodden. It must. It must for the sake of its own dignity and for the protection of women throughout the world.”