Feminists Take Notice: Afghan Women Face Down Taliban While Fighting for Basic Rights


Bette Midler has just discovered the play “Lysistrata” or thinks you’ve never heard of it.

In “Lysistrata,” an ancient Greek comedy by playwright Aristophanes, a woman tries to put an end to the Peloponnesian War by getting women to withhold sex from their husbands until a peace treaty is signed.

Midler, in response to the Supreme Court refusing to block a Texas fetal heartbeat law that relies on novel methods of non-state enforcement, decided to recycle the suggestion.

“I suggest that all women refuse to have sex with men until they are guaranteed the right to choose by Congress,” the 75-year-old actress and singer wrote on Twitter.

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That’s hardly the only protest over the Texas law. The Women’s March group, which pretty much disintegrated by the end of the Trump years, was apparently reinvigorated by the decision, announcing Oct. 2 marches “in every single state” and pledged “to mobilize and defend our reproductive rights.”

According to a New York Post article last week, “Planned Parenthood announced a nationwide in-person and virtual protest Tuesday, encouraging supporters to wear orange and assemble in public at noon Wednesday across the country to chant ‘Bans off our bodies’ in solidarity with Texas women.” So, if you saw anyone wearing orange on Wednesday, there you go.

This all raises an interesting question: How many weeks do you think the new Taliban government in Afghanistan will give a woman there to abort her unborn child? If she gets an abortion after that, what will the punishment be? And how much leeway will they give dissenting women to protest?

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All of these questions are farcical on their face, of course. Even under the old government, abortion was illegal unless the mother’s life was in danger or the baby had a significant risk of being born with severe disabilities — yet, according to a 2014 report from German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle, there were ways around that, including doctors who would prescribe the necessary drugs or expensive private clinics.

Those loopholes will likely close. That’s also the least of a woman’s concerns in Afghanistan right now, however, and those who stand up and protest the virtual eradication of women’s rights will likely end up incurring the wrath of the Taliban, a government not known for leniency toward either dissent or the distaff gender.

Ironic, then, that we’ve spent far more time talking about Bette Midler, the Women’s March and Planned Parenthood reacting to the Texas fetal heartbeat law than the women protesting for basic rights in Afghanistan.

The Associated Press reported Taliban special forces put an end to a protest in Kabul on Saturday by firing their weapons into the air.

“The women’s march — the second in as many days in Kabul — began peacefully,” the AP reported. “Demonstrators laid a wreath outside Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry to honor Afghan soldiers who died fighting the Taliban before marching on to the presidential palace.”

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“We are here to gain human rights in Afghanistan,” 20-year-old protester Maryam Naiby told the wire service. “I love my country. I will always be here.”

“I am the voice of the women who are unable to speak,” 24-year-old student Farhat Popalzai said. “They think this is a man’s country but it is not, it is a woman’s country too.”

Taliban officials initially asked protesters what their message was. Sudaba Kabiri, 24, told them Muhammad, who Muslims claim was a prophet, gave women rights and they wanted to secure them.

“The Taliban official promised women would be given their rights but the women, all in their early 20s, were skeptical,” the AP reported.

The demonstration reached the presidential palace, where it was broken up by special forces entering the crowd and firing in the air. Kabiri spoke with ABC News afterwards and said the Taliban also used tear gas and stun guns as well.

“They stood in front of our protest,” she said. “They did not allow us to continue our protest, because they want to eliminate the power of women. They don’t want to hear from the women.

“They [govern] as if this country just belongs to men. Women are nothing. It’s our country as well. Women are as educated [as men]. How can they remove us from this society? We are a part of this society. We protest to announce: ‘We are here.’”

A video tweeted Friday, meanwhile, appears to show a women’s protest being forcibly broken up by what Iranian-born American journalist and activist Masih Alinejad said was a Taliban soldier.

Another video posted by Alinejad reportedly showed protester Narges Sadat with injuries inflicted by the Taliban.

The Taliban have promised to rule differently than they did when they controlled the country from 1996 to 2001, the AP noted, and have held talks with opposition figures including former Afghan president Hamid Karzai about a coalition government. However, scenes like these don’t give one much hope:

“Taliban members whitewashed murals Saturday that promoted health care, warned of the dangers of HIV and even paid homage to some of Afghanistan’s iconic foreign contributors, like anthropologist Nancy Dupree, who singlehandedly chronicled Afghanistan’s rich cultural legacy,” the AP reported. “It was a worrying sign of attempts to erase reminders of the past 20 years.”

Rest assured that if and when the Taliban do erase those reminders, those who protested Friday and Saturday will get much more than the rights women enjoyed over two decades taken away from them. And yet they protest.

Meanwhile, America’s feminists believe the Supreme Court’s refusal to block a Texas fetal heartbeat law — they didn’t even find that it was constitutional, merely that it didn’t merit being blocked before it had been implemented — is a worthy cause to take to the streets for. They’ll be lauded for it, not attacked.

Don’t expect any mass mobilizations for Afghan women, however. Nay, don’t even expect a “Lysistrata”-inspired sex strike.

It’s almost as if they’ve never heard of these Taliban fellows and their abortion restrictions.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture