“You can’t hold back the girls,” says the Afghan women’s rights activist about the Taliban rule

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The Taliban’s swift takeover of Afghanistan has resulted in a massive dismantling of women’s rights, but journalist and activist Mahbouba Seraj believes the pursuit of gender equality in her homeland is an unstoppable force that will eventually triumph over the new government’s seemingly unwavering resistance .

“Afghanistan is not the same Afghanistan that you came to 20 years ago,” Seraj said in an interview with Susan Ormiston of CBC in the capital, Kabul. “We are no longer a country where women have no voice.”

CLOCK | “You have to go to school. Period, “says Seraj:

“You have to go to school. Period, “says the Afghan women’s rights activist

Mahbouba Seraj, director of the Afghan Women’s Network, discusses with Susan Ormiston from CBC what the return of the Taliban to power means for women and girls in Afghanistan. 0:35

The last time the Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, women were banned from working and girls from school. The group carried out public executions and enforced strict interpretations of Islamic law.

Seraj, the head of the Afghan Women’s Network, recently named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, has been watching closely how the Taliban are governing women.

And although the Taliban have curtailed previously enjoyed rights – such as segregating universities by gender, dispelling protests at gunpoint for equality, and banning women from playing cricket – Seraj says that pressure from within and beyond outside Afghanistan will force them to surrender.

PHOTOS | Everyday scenes of women in Afghanistan under Taliban rule:

“The Taliban don’t have much time to really sit down and think, linger and rethink,” said Seraj, referring to major economic problems the group is facing due to sanctions and a lack of international recognition from their government.

“The world will make a decision on whether or not to recognize the Taliban, and a lot depends on what it does,” she said, particularly on keeping schools open to girls. “You can’t hold the girls back.”

Seraj noted that some women fear reprisals from the Taliban, but many are also willing to use their voices found over the past 20 years.

“If they think for a second that we are not going to raise our voices – we are not going to ask about our rights, we are not going to stand up for what’s ours to be ours – then they are wrong.” She said.

“There is no one in this world who can stand in front of them and say: ‘You do not have the right to do so.'”

CLOCK | Taliban have no doubts about the resilience of Afghan women, says Seraj:

Taliban wrongly doubt the resilience of Afghan women, says activist

Mahbouba Seraj, director of the Afghan Women’s Network, tells CBC’s Susan Ormiston that despite the Taliban’s return to power, women in Afghanistan will stand up for their rights. 0:55


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