Exiled Afghan MP says Taliban 'erasing' women

Fawzia Koofi urges world to support Afghan women in their brave resistance against Taliban oppression

Fawzia Koofi speaks during an interview in Kabul April 12, 2012. — Reuters/File
Fawzia Koofi speaks during an interview in Kabul April 12, 2012. — Reuters/File

LONDON: A former Afghan woman MP who fled to Britain after the Taliban takeover in 2021 on Thursday called on the world to hold the Taliban accountable for its attempt to erase women from public life.

Fawzia Koofi, a former vice-president of the Afghan parliament, said bans on the activities of women and girls such as working for aid groups or going to school or university had resulted in them being deleted from public life.

“They have literally erased women, there is nothing left except that the next edict might be that woman should not breathe,” she told AFP in an interview.

On Saturday, Afghanistan’s rulers banned women from working in non-governmental organisations. The Taliban had already suspended university education for women and secondary schooling for girls.

Koofi, also one of the negotiators in failed peace talks between the then-Afghan government and the Taliban in Doha in 2020, said a family member had just asked her for help leaving.

Shattered dreams

The woman said she had not asked for help earlier because “I was working. And I thought, as long as I can work, I can live here”.

But now that she was unable to work she said her dreams had been “shattered”.

The former MP, who survived two assassination attempts in Afghanistan, said she felt unable to help because “if everyone leaves Afghanistan, what will happen?”

She urged the world to support the women of Afghanistan who were “bravely fighting, resisting, in their own ways”.

“They are being arrested, they are being tortured,” she said.

“I think it's time for the world to recognise our struggles.”

Koofi said protests sparked by the Taliban’s restrictions on women would not be easily suppressed in the long term.

“That is bravery. I think this will continue because women have nothing else to lose.”

Women in Afghanistan had lost everything and those who had left had lost their country, their identity and their mental well-being due to feeling totally “powerless”, she said.

However, she said, she had not rested since the day she left in September 2021, weeks after the Taliban’s takeover.

And she pledged that she and other exiles were determined to “do everything possible to keep the fight alive, to keep the voice alive”.

Koofi said she remained hopeful that the Taliban would be defeated in their attempts to restrict women.

They were dealing with an “empowered generation”, she said, “who knew how to take their rights” and let the world know what was happening.

Taliban 2.0

Advances in women’s rights in recent years had also “changed the country to a situation where it gives me hope that hopefully, Taliban will not last very long”.

“Women will defeat them,” she said.

People in Afghanistan were “very angry that [...] Afghanistan has come so far in terms of education, and in terms of women’s empowerment.

“Now, to push it back. It’s not even about women’s rights, it’s about the economy of our country, it’s about the future of our country.”

She said she believed the world was now seeing the Taliban’s true colours after an attempt to persuade the world that it was “Taliban 2.0”.

Over time they had “demonstrated they are the same Taliban, women are their enemy in terms of their ideology”.

She called on the West to understand that there was no “middle ground” in terms of dealing with the Taliban.

And she said she hoped that members of the UN Security Council would visit Afghanistan and “hold (the) Taliban accountable for what’s happening”.