Defying Threat of Violence, Women Join in Protest Against the Taliban

At a news conference in Doha, Qatar, Foreign Secretary Antony J. Blinken said Tuesday that US officials were “working around the clock” to ensure that chartered flights with Americans can safely leave Afghanistan.

Mr Blinken, who appeared with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and her Qatari counterparts, said Taliban leaders had recently reaffirmed their commitment to allowing American citizens and others with valid travel documents to travel freely.

But the Taliban have objected to charter flights that combine people with and without valid travel documents, Blinken said.

He added that he was not aware of any “hostage-like” situation at Mazar-e-Sharif airport, where some stakeholders and members of Congress say the Taliban are blocking charter flights. Mr Blinken added that he believes there are around 100 American citizens remaining in Afghanistan, including “a relatively small number” who want to leave Mazar-e-Sharif.

For the vast majority of Afghans, there is no escape. Just uncertainty.

But the fact that women have been prominently involved in many of the recent protests has underscored their willingness to stand up for their rights in the face of rifle butts, tear gas and retaliation.

In the two decades before the Taliban came to power, women were active in Afghanistan, holding political offices, joining the military and the police, playing in orchestras and taking part in the Olympic Games.

Many Afghan women, who have benefited from education and freedom of expression over the past twenty years, fear a return to the past when women were banned from leaving the home without a male guardian and were publicly flogged for violating violate morality, for example by not covering their skin.

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