Men and Women

Armed Afghan women take to streets in show of defiance against Taliban

By Emma Graham Harrison, The Guardian

Women in north and central regions of country stage demonstrations as militants make sweeping gains nationwide.

Women have taken up guns in northern and central Afghanistan, marching in the streets in their hundreds and sharing pictures of themselves with assault rifles on social media, in a show of defiance as the Taliban make sweeping gains nationwide.

One of the biggest demonstrations was in central Ghor province, where hundreds of women turned out at the weekend, waving guns and chanting anti-Taliban slogans.

They are not likely to head to the frontlines in large numbers any time soon, because of both social conservatism and lack of experience. But the public demonstrations, at a time of urgent threat from the militants, are a reminder of how frightened many women are about what Taliban rule could mean for them and their families.

“There were some women who just wanted to inspire security forces, just symbolic, but many more were ready to go to the battlefields,” said Halima Parastish, the head of the women’s directorate in Ghor and one of the marchers. “That includes myself. I and some other women told the governor around a month ago that we’re ready to go and fight.”

The Taliban have been sweeping across rural Afghanistan, taking dozens of districts including in places such as northern Badakhshan province, which 20 years ago was an anti-Taliban stronghold. They now have multiple provincial capitals in effect under siege.

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