Afghan women share their stories on a UNI panel

CEDAR FALLS – The lives and tribulations of women and girls living in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan were honored at ‘Our Stories: The Women of Afghanistan’ panel discussion at Northern University from Iowa.

Five women sat down Thursday to give testimonies about their early lives under Taliban rule before the US invaded the country in 2001, and how that nation went from giving women the right to vote a year before the United States States don’t pass the 19th Amendment, with girls being barred from receiving an education. This is the life that Hakima Afzaly, Roquiya Sayeq, Hasina Jalal, Zamira Saidi and Zuhal Salim have lived.

“What is the difference between us and the guys in the neighborhood, or my cousins ​​– the boys,” Jalal said thinking back to his childhood. “Why do they get all these rights and not us? It was the first question I asked myself when I was a child.

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Jalal was due to return to Afghanistan to see his family after being delayed by the pandemic, only to be forced to cancel as the United States withdrew and the Taliban began to retake territory. His parents were both temporarily imprisoned for dissent against the regime, but were released thanks to the intervention of the United Nations.

“I’m sure you’ve seen this in so many photos from Afghanistan; so basically long, burqa hijab with a few little holes in it,” Salim said, linking women’s dress code to the life they live. “That’s how they want women to see their world – just inches.”

Each had difficulty accessing education while Afzaly, who belongs to the predominantly Shia Hazara people, was forced to flee with her family to Pakistan to escape ethnic cleansing. During the panel presentation, she spoke about the plight of her people, who are once again being targeted under the resurgent Taliban regime.

“Currently there is a genocide going on against the Hazara community,” Afzaly said. “We are being targeted in schools, maternity wards, mosques, marriage halls and educational centers, to name a few.”

Born in Waterloo and an art graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, Duane Slick is an acclaimed Native American artist.

It affected Afzaly last month when a bomb exploded at an education center in Kabul, killing 50 people, mostly girls and young women from the Hazara community preparing to enter university. Although no one claimed responsibility for the attack, she said the Taliban or Islamic State were the most likely culprits.

“Their families are still mourning the loss of their children,” Afzaly said. “To honor those innocent lives and their families, today I share my story focusing on just one part of my identity – which I share with all of them – and that is being a Hazara.”

Salim also urged the public not to view the plight of Afghan women as just a problem in another country, but to act in solidarity, as it is a human problem that could affect women even in the West.

“If we tolerate violence and injustice against the women of Aghanistan, we tolerate injustice against all women in the world,” she said.

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