By WAZHMA FROGH
There are many commonly-held beliefs about life for women under the Taliban in Afghanistan, but few stories. Please allow me to tell you one.
At the time, I was living in Pakistan and often had to return to my homeland for work or to visit relatives. Each time, I would have to tell my father one month before, to allow him to grow his beard so he could accompany me, otherwise we could not travel. One day when we crossed the border into Afghanistan, we saw a crowd of people and could hear a woman and a young child screaming.
Pushing my way closer to see what was happening, I saw a woman being beaten to a bloody pulp with whips and rocks, with her young child next to her who would scream every time that she screamed.
Turning to those next to me, I asked what this lady had done. A man responded instantly, “It is obvious can’t you see? Her feet are naked!” Although she was wearing the burqa that had become a uniform for women under the Taliban, she had thongs on her feet.
Thongs on her feet. That was why the ‘vice and virtue police’ were punishing her.
Since those dark days, women have made enormous gains in Afghanistan. I have been in Australia for the past week with male and female colleagues to talk about women’s rights – this in itself is evidence of how far Afghan women have come in the past 11 years since international forces removed the Taliban.
I had the great opportunity to meet with many of your parliamentarians last week at Parliament House, and speak to them about these issues. We presented them with recommendations from a two-day roundtable held in Melbourne, on how Australia can help to promote and protect the rights of Afghan women through transition and post-2014.
It’s the support and understanding of Australian women that we need. In my time here, I have learned that Australians are caring, compassionate people, who care deeply about the plight of women in Afghanistan. However, they are not aware of how far we have come in the last decade, and the difficulties we would face should the world forget us once their troops leave.