Shararzad Akbar, Afghan activist in exile: “The Taliban occupation has consequences beyond Afghanistan, even in Ukraine: don’t forget us”
“There is a risk that one tragedy will cloud the other, don’t forget the Afghans, don’t leave them alone under the tyranny of the Taliban, don’t forget that it’s an illegal regime: the long wave of what is happening there reaches us here with you »he warns Shararzad Akbar, Afghan activist in exile, on tour in a Europe with war “at home”. She speaks, tells, argues, warms up, thinks: looking at her, with her tiny body and the baby bump for the seventh month, no one knows where to find all that strength. Former chairman of the Afghan human rights commission, he speaks to Courier service from Milan, on the sidelines of a meeting organized by Guido Camera, president of the rule of law association, and by the ng There is no peace without justice.
“When the war broke out in Ukraine there was a tweet from the Taliban government calling on the parties not to go to war. From what pulpit: the Taliban have tried to present themselves before the international community as reliable people, who respect international law, who seek peace and are not a source of problems for the West. But they were also careful not to antagonize Russia: they know well that after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the role of Moscow is important ».
The rapid withdrawal of the Americans from Afghanistan, according to some analysts, paved the way for the invasion of Ukraine. Do you see this link too?
“There is a relationship between the Taliban recovery of Afghanistan and the ongoing Russian attempt to recover Ukraine. I believe that the Taliban victory in Afghanistan and the way the international community made this occupation possible has implications beyond Afghanistan, some we see now in Ukraine, some will manifest in the future. The idea that ideology-led violent groups can transform themselves from terrorists into government force is not a good message. It is not the message we should send out ».
You stressed the different attitude of the international community towards the Afghan crisis and its refugees compared to the Ukrainian one.
“I know that Afghanistan is far from Europe and that being present requires effort. Comfort that the conflict is receiving a lot of attention globally with such heavy pressure on Russia. However, the Afghan community also noticed the difference in the response to the two crises. Not only by the leadership of the two countries, but also by the international community. Difference in the level of involvement, and in the management of refugees. It saddens me not only for the Afghans, but for the whole human family, still marked by this type of discrimination. Despite the work on human rights and widespread technology, it is difficult to treat refugees with the same sense of respect ».
It is mainly women who resist in Afghanistan.
«Since last August 15, the only opposition force in Afghanistan are women, who go out into the streets to protest every day despite the fierce repression. They also find creative ways of doing it. On March 8, for example, they went to the Taliban and asked them: do you know what day it is today? And they delivered gifts for their wives… The videos circulated on TikTok. There are many ways to resist, and I think the more you try to repress, the more women show creativity to challenge them. ”
Could the battle waged by Afghan women also be inspiring in the West?
«Even in the West, rights are not acquired forever, as the ongoing war shows. I believe the example of Afghan women can be instructive. First of all, we must remind women wherever they are that the achievements we have achieved are fragile, that we must continue to fight. Then what is happening in Afghanistan is a test for the global feminist movement. But do we have a global feminist movement? How far are feminists willing to put themselves on the line for sisters in other parts of the world, of different religions, languages, cultures? Sometimes I’m optimistic, sometimes I’m not. What is happening in Afghanistan is gender apartheid: how can we sleep peacefully when in one part of the world, women still do not have access to secondary education today? ».
She had already left her country during the first Taliban government, she lived in Pakistan as a child with her family for some years. And last summer she ran away again, to Europe. And she now finds herself here again in the middle of a war.
«For me it was the re-edition of a trauma, of a devastating pain. I was a child when the war arrived in my city: it is not only the houses and infrastructures that are destroyed, but the people, their future. In front of the civilians who leave their homes and take up their guns, I feel pain and a lot of anger. In May 2020, the Taliban entered the maternity ward of a hospital in Kabul, killing unborn mothers and babies. Wednesday the attack on Mariupol children’s hospital. A horror that repeats itself. When I learned of the attack on the Mariupol Children’s Hospital I was in a meeting and I felt overwhelmed by an avalanche of mud. I remembered when they entered the hospital in Afghanistan and shot expectant women. At the time my son was about to turn one, I easily identified with those women. I was destroyed. For days I couldn’t focus on anything. Now I am pregnant again and if I think about what happened the other day in Ukraine, I feel bad: it is the moment when you feel stronger because you are giving your life but you are also more vulnerable ».
How do you manage to go on with all this suffering?
“In our community we have learned to mourn and work. I would arrive at the office and in the middle of a meeting there would be an explosion, or learning of a colleague killed. The challenge was not to become indifferent and at the same time not to let this pain paralyze us. It is tiring, but it is our way of managing our drama ».
She is in exile and finds herself managing a mix of feelings: not just pain and anger.
“I feel the guilt of those who survive. Among others, I lost a 25-year-old colleague, she had the future ahead of her, every day I feel guilty about it, I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t do anything about it. Then there is the sense of guilt for being in exile, I am not harassed, oppressed, and instead millions of my compatriots do not have access to basic services. There is also a sense of shame: they are fighting and what am I doing here, sitting comfortably in a European capital? After a few months I realized that these emotions are of no help either to me or to my compatriots in Afghanistan. So I’m trying to transform these feelings into a constructive stimulus ».