Meet the Afghan women defying the Taliban. 'The more they try to scare us, the more fearless we become.'

Rare protests by women in Afghanistan for the right to study, work, and participate in government have been held.
Despite the Taliban's promise to protect women's rights and freedom, many fear that women will be exterminated from public life.

Insider spoke with women's rights activists in the field about equality.

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Many women marched in Kabul on Saturday to protest the Taliban takeover.

As the peaceful protest quickly turned violent, Taliban fighters attacked the women and shot at them. They also used tear gas to spray the air. One woman protestor was seen with blood streaming down her face.

This was just the latest of a number of protests by women in Kabul and Herat in the past few days. Women in Afghanistan rose in large numbers to demand that their rights be protected.

Maryam*, a women's rights activist, told Insider that "Women aren't letting the Taliban take away their rights or achievements anymore."

"They will fight and resist, even if it is lethal."

Maryam is a Kabul resident and the executive director for Her Afghanistan. This organization supports young Afghan women.

She stated, "The more that the Taliban try and scare us the more fearless they become."

Many Afghan women live in fear since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan two week ago.

Although militants claim that women will be allowed to join society according to Sharia law, activists warn they are not a true interpretation of Islamic law.

During the Taliban's 1990s rule, severe restrictions were placed upon women's lives. These included banning them from any employment and prohibiting their education.

Insider was told by Pashtana Durrani that this is about Afghan girls and their future.

Durrani is the executive Director of Learn Afghanistan, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to education and digital literacy.

She said, "In a few days, the world may forget about Afghanistan. But we need to stand together."

"We must keep pressing for the opening all schools for boys and girls, and for women to be in a position to work."

The instructions to women were to send their male relatives to work at their place

As Afghan women protest in Herat, September 2, 2021, they hold placards. AFP via Getty Images

While the Taliban claim to be reformists, activists argue that their words are not consistent with their actions.

People say that the Taliban have changed. They can now speak English with a better accent than me and they can communicate in English. Durrani stated that they are very well-known."

"Let's not be distracted by what they say. She said, "Let's not focus on what their words say. Let us instead be focused on what they do."

Zabiullah Mujahid, the spokesperson for Taliban, stated that women shouldn't work to ensure their safety soon after taking control of the country.

He said that the fighters were not trained to respect women.

Since then, there have been numerous reports of women being told to stay at home and not go to work by men.

Durrani stated that she had heard of women who worked at Kandahar's bank and were told by their male relatives to send them to their jobs, despite not being qualified.

Durrani stated, "So you're telling us that a man who studied literature should work instead of a female who is an accountant." "How is that possible?"

Social media has seen videos of Taliban fighters painting photos of women over, sparking fears that Afghan society is being destroyed once more.

Durrani was raised in a family that believed in education. She believes that it is the best tool to empower women in the country.

"Education can help you become financially, intellectually and personally independent. Women must take control of their lives. Durrani stated that we need to be our own people.

"I hate being called someone's child or mother. While that's not a bad thing, I want my own identity. She said that education is the best way to achieve that goal.

Abdul Baqi Haqqani (acting minister for the Ministry of Higher Education) stated last week that women can attend university, but must be taught in separate classrooms from men students.

Activists claim that in Afghanistan there aren't enough female teachers, particularly at the top levels. Many fear this will make it difficult for women to go on higher education.

Maryam stated that there is a shortage of female educators to help men in education and it is nearly impossible for women to learn certain fields.

Maryam stated that these policies were not decided by women.

Primary school children will be educated in separate ways, usually in the conservative country.

Schools are closed until sixth grade and it is not clear when secondary schools will reopen.

Durrani stated that the Taliban's exclusion from work and education of women is absurd, as the country must use all tax-paying workers.

"The Taliban foot soldiers were probably teenage boys who are emotional and hormonal."

Maryam and Durrani are both currently hiding in Afghanistan. They know that their activism could lead to them being targets.

Insider heard Maryam tell Insider that she was regularly threatened by her activism even before the Taliban took over the country.

To hide her identity, she now leaves the house only in a burqa.

Durrani fled to hiding after Kandahar, her hometown, fell.

Since then, she has been a prominent figure in international media, speaking regularly about the importance to protect women's rights.

Durrani claims that the Taliban have openly carried out revenge killings against people who have fought with them or worked with them despite their promises of general amnesty.

Durrani stated, "That's why I'm hiding because they don’t want to hear anything from someone with opposing viewpoints."

Durrani stated that the Taliban foot soldiers were young teenage boys. He believed they are hormonal and emotional, and would love to strike me at any moment.

Maryam and Durrani both will continue to advocate for the cause and promise to hold the new regime responsible for their promises.

Maryam stated, "Freedom for Afghan women is a matter both of life and death." They have not lost their hope."

*We have given pseudonyms some of the Afghan women to keep their identities private.