The defiant dozen: How 12 brave women have returned to their jobs at Kabul Airport where 80 females used to work before the Taliban takeover
- 12 Afghan women have returned to work at Kabul airport under Taliban rule
- It comes less than a month after the Taliban rolled into the Afghan capital
- The Islamists said women should stay at home for their own security and are only permitting a very small number of women to work
- The group said they have relaxed their brutally strict stance on women’s rights
- But women still face widespread restrictions while numerous reports from Afghanistan suggest the Taliban are committing heinous acts of violence
- Female-led anti-Taliban protests earlier this week resulted in women being locked underground and threatened with rifles
Less than a month after the Taliban rolled into the Afghan capital, Rabia Jamal made a tough decision to brave the hardliners and return to work at the airport.
With the Islamists saying women should stay at home for their own security the risks were all too clear, but the 35-year-old mother of three felt she had little choice.
Of the more than 80 women working at the airport before Kabul fell to the Taliban on August 15, just 12 have returned to their jobs.
But they are among very few women in the capital allowed to return to work, as the Taliban have told most women that they must remain at home.
It comes as hundreds of pro-Taliban Afghan women attended a lecture at Kabul university on Saturday wearing full-face veils in support of the new regime’s hardline policies on gender segregation.
‘I need money to support my family,’ said Rabia, wearing a navy-blue suit and make-up.
‘I felt tension at home. I felt very bad. Now I feel better.’
Of the more than 80 women working at the airport before Kabul fell to the Taliban on August 15, just 12 have returned to their jobs
Under new rules, women may work ‘in accordance with the principles of Islam’, the Taliban have decreed, but few details have yet been given as to what exactly that might mean
Six of the women airport workers were standing at the main entrance on Saturday, chatting and laughing while waiting to scan and search female passengers taking a domestic flight.
Rabia’s sister, 49-year-old Qudsiya Jamal, told AFP the Taliban takeover had ‘shocked’ her.
‘I was very afraid,’ said the mother of five, who is also her family’s sole provider.
‘My family was scared for me — they told me not to go back — but I am happy now, relaxed. no problems so far.’
Women’s rights in Afghanistan were sharply curtailed under the Taliban’s 1996-2001 rule, but since returning to power the group claims they will be less extreme.
Women will be allowed to attend university as long as classes are segregated by sex or at least divided by a curtain, the Taliban’s education authority has said, but females must also wear an abaya, an all-covering robe, and face-covering niqab veil.
Still, Alison Davidian, a representative for UN Women in Afghanistan, warned on Wednesday that the Taliban were already neglecting their promise to respect Afghan women’s rights.
At the airport, which is returning to action after the hurried US withdrawal left it unusable, Rabia says she will keep working unless she is forced to stop.
Under new rules, women may work ‘in accordance with the principles of Islam’, the Taliban have decreed, but few details have yet been given as to what exactly that might mean.
‘My dream is to be the richest girl in Afghanistan, and I feel I am always the luckiest,’ said Rabia, who has worked since 2010 at the terminal for GAAC, a UAE-based company providing ground and security handling.
Alison Davidian, a representative for UN Women in Afghanistan, warned the Taliban were already neglecting their promise to respect Afghan women’s rights
‘I will do what I love until I am not lucky anymore.’
Rabia’s colleague, who gave her name as Zala, dreams of something completely different.
The 30-year-old was learning French in Kabul before she was forced to stop and stay at home for three weeks after the takeover.
‘Good morning, take me to Paris,’ she said in broken French, as her five colleagues burst into laughter.
‘But not now. Today I am one of the last women of the airport.’
On Thursday, Taliban spokesman Sayed Zekrullah Hashimi declared that women will never take up a ministerial position in government because it’s a burden that they ‘cannot carry’ and they should instead ‘give birth’.
He said that the Taliban ‘do not consider women to be half of the society’ and that allowing a woman to become a government minister would be to ‘put something on her neck that she cannot carry.’
‘The women of Afghanistan are those who give birth to the people of Afghanistan, educates them on Islamic ethics,’ he said.
On Thursday, Taliban spokesman Sayed Zekrullah Hashimi said that the Taliban ‘do not consider women to be half of the society’ and that allowing a woman to become a government minister would be to ‘put something on her neck that she cannot carry’
Taliban fighters faced female led protests on Wednesday September 8 after they announced an all-male interim government with a no representation for women and ethnic minority groups on Tuesday, and subsequently banned women from taking part in any sport.
Furious protesters took to the streets of the capital in response to the decision and pictures quickly emerged showing female demonstrators arguing with Taliban fighters as one woman stared down an M-16 rifle pointed at her face.
Footage taken on a mobile phone shows a woman in an underground car park, panning around to reveal a crowd of women and some children gathered in the same space.
Miraqa Popal, the head of news at Afghanistan’s Tolo News outlet, shared the clip on Twitter, writing that some eyewitnesses said the women were held in Kabul’s Azizi Bank ‘to prevent them from joining protesters’.
But on Saturday, about 300 pro-Taliban women – covered head-to-toe in accordance with strict new dress policies for education – waved white Taliban flags as speakers railed against the West and expressed support for the Islamists’ policies at an Islamist lecture at Kabul university.
Taliban fighters faced female led protests on Wednesday September 8 after they announced an all-male interim government with a no representation for women and ethnic minority groups on Tuesday
An Afghan girl watches during a cricket game on the school grounds in Kabul on December 28, 2010. Cricket has been popular with both genders since the Taliban were ousted by coalition forces but now women won’t be allowed to play because the jihadists think it is immodest
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