Afghan women’s rights defenders face an endless fight

Lailuma Nasiri is a well-known figure among Afghan women’s rights activists. (Credit: Lailuma Nasiri)

Lailuma Nasiri is a well-known figure among Afghan women’s rights activists. On top of her 17 years of experience fighting for gender equality, she has also held a number of positions with national and international organisations and co-founded the Afghanistan Justice Organisation (AJO), the Afghan-led non-governmental and non-partisan organisation launched in 2011.

AJO works to promote democracy, governance and rule of law through different projects including capacity building, public awareness campaigns and institutional reform of governmental and non-governmental institutions.

“We had been working closely with the judiciary among other projects. We organised many capacity building training programmes and workshops for judiciary staff including judges, attorneys and lawyers,” Nasiri tells Geneva Solutions.

Since the peace process between the Afghan government and the Taliban officially started at the beginning of 2020, Afghan women had been concerned about not being fairly represented at peace talks with the Taliban leaders. A hot topic in the media, many women's rights organisations - including AJO - were working to support women's active participation. At the beginning, there were no women present during meetings with the Taliban, but women’s rights organisations played a role in ensuring the presence of the women in the Afghan government side delegation.

Alongside this, Nasiri says AJO was also working to combat terrorism and corruption. Like many other NGOs in Afghanistan, the organisation has been shut down since the Taliban took control. “Personally, I am not afraid of problems and I have the ability to face obstacles and remove them,” says Nasiri. “But as a responsible person, when I realised that the critical situation was coming, I advised my staff to work from home.”

Twenty employees were working at AJO's office in Kabul, of which 10 of them were women. On the day that the Taliban entered Kabul, Nasiri and her colleagues had to work quickly to protect their work.

“We were trying to block our database and deactivate our online filing system and website to keep all the official information and data safe,” she recounts over the phone.

“It was late morning when another of my colleagues called me,” she continues. “She told me that the Taliban had come to Kabul, and then she started crying. I closed the office and came home and I haven't been back since.”

Nasiri has organised and attended many national and international seminars and conferences on promoting women's rights. She is also well known in the national and international media, having participated in many interviews and TV discussions.

Nasiri believes in the power of women. She says all Afghan women around the world have to raise their voices against the Taliban rules enforced on women in Afghanistan. They have to struggle for their rights to work and education and to protect all the achievements they have made in the last twenty years.

But it won't be enough unless the international community, especially the United Nations, helps Afghan women put pressure on the Taliban to give back their rights. They cannot forget about the women in Afghanistan.