As the world watches the Taliban take control of Afghanistan, following the pullout of American troops, people are speaking out in fear of what awaits citizens stuck in the country. In particular, the future for Afghani women is of concern, as the Taliban is known for stripping them of their rights. One woman knows all too well how the Taliban treats women and she's not staying quiet.
Malala Yousafzai was just a teenager in 2012 when she was shot in the face by the Pakistan Taliban as punishment for her activism. The youngest Nobel Prize laureate, Malala is now 24 years old and continues to be a champion for women's rights in Pakistan and surrounding countries. As she watches what is unfolding in Afghanistan, she decided to make an exclusive statement to the BBC.
“We cannot see a country going decades and centuries back,” she shared in a video interview. “We have to take some bold stances for the protection of women and girls, for the protection of minority groups, and for peace and stability in that region.”
She called for countries to open their borders and allow Afghan refugees. In fact, she personally sent a letter to Pakistan's prime minister asking him not only to take in refugees, but to also ensure that refugee women and children have access to education. Education is also on the mind of Afghanistan's All-Girl Robotics team, who are some of the thousands trying to escape the country.
The award-winning team, which is composed of 20 girls—ages 12 to 18—is working with human rights lawyer Kimberley Motley to flee the country. Motley is hoping that Canada, where the girls won a competition and met Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2018, will welcome the girls.
“Unfortunately, what’s been happening to little girls over this last week is that the Taliban has been literally going from door to door and literally taking girls out and forcing them to become child brides,” Motley stated. “And we are very, very concerned of that happening with this Afghan girls robotics team—these girls that want to be engineers, they want to be in the AI community and they dare to dream to succeed. And we are literally begging the Canadian government. We’re begging Prime Minister Trudeau, who has been an amazing supporter of the Afghan girls robotics team, to please allow them to come to Canada.”
Already, Motley says that the girls are seeing big changes in Herat, the third-largest city in Afghanistan. It was seized by the Taliban on August 12. “Now in the universities, they're turning girls away,” Motley recounted. “They're telling girls, ‘Don't come back to the university.' Women are showing up for work and are being turned away. They're seeing this and watching tearfully as their city is crumbling.”
While tragic images and videos of panic at the Kabul airport continue to surface, eyes turn to world leaders to see how they respond to the Taliban and how they step up in advocating for the rights of all Afghani's, but in particular, for the women and children who want to continue to educate themselves and live without fear.
If you are looking for ways to help, the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security has published an article that gives some concrete actions anyone can take to help.