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Zarifa Ghafari: ‘The Taliban cannot erase us’


In 2018, at the age of 24 (though she admits claiming she was two years older to qualify), Ghafari was named one of Afghanistan’s few female mayors. She then had to fight for months to be allowed to hold the post following protests from residents of the conservative town of Maidan Shahr.

Ghafari was finally able to start working in November 2019, nearly a year after her appointment, but soon, as she tells CNN, she would face constant harassment, intimidation and regular protests: mobs of angry men protesting outside his office, holding sticks and throwing stones.

She remembers walking into his office and everyone else walking out, as well as the times when she would come to his office through a locked door, having to break the lock just to get in.

But the young Afghan civil servant continued to run and served as mayor for two and a half years.

“The more they ignored me, the stronger I became; the more they rejected me, the stronger I became; the more I saw how [they ridiculed] me for my gender, the stronger I became,” she says.

“I was like, ‘I’m going to show you people, because whatever’s on my mind is like you, too.’

And Ghafari would succeed in changing some people’s attitudes. She says one of her fiercest critics told her years later that she had proven him wrong when he told her she was nothing more than a little girl.

“I was able to show the power and the ability of women and prove that we can do anything. I showed people that no matter how many times I get attacked, I will always be here because I mean what I am. doing is good,” she says.

But all of this happened before America withdrew its troops from Afghanistan last year and before the Taliban took control of the country. Initially, Ghafari had wanted to stay, but the situation on the ground got worse and worse, she said. Her father was murdered in 2020 and she thought her own life was also in danger.

The final straw came in the summer of 2021 after she said gunmen came to her home looking for her and brutally beat her security guard. She had already survived multiple assassination attempts by the Taliban and knew that leaving Afghanistan was the only way for her to protect the rest of her family. She therefore fled in August 2021 to leave the country by hiding in the floor of a car.

“I believe we need to build, rather than break, the bridge between the Afghan people and the world.”

Zarifa Ghafari

Now living in Germany, Ghafari continues to raise his voice for the people of his native country and uses his radio channel and humanitarian foundation – the Afghan Women’s Aid and Advancement Organization — to defend women’s rights.

“I have no illusions about the Taliban, but I am also aware that they will now be in power in Afghanistan for a few years. The media has mostly focused on the Taliban and how they will govern, but I am interested in the people and I believe we need to build, rather than break, the bridge between the Afghan people and the world,” she said.

In February, Ghafari returned to Kabul for the first time and says she was horrified to see how quickly conditions had deteriorated there and in neighboring provinces.

“We have always had shocking poverty in Afghanistan, but now even those who belonged to the middle class are struggling to survive. State employees have not received their salaries for months. As I drove around from Kabul, I saw people standing on the side of the road and selling their household goods,” she says.

The previous month, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres had underscored “the scale of despair” as the UN launched its largest-ever humanitarian appeal for a single country, warning that “virtually all men, women and children in Afghanistan could face extreme poverty”. .”
Ghafari says her heart broke again when the Taliban reneged on their long-awaited promise to allow girls over grade 6 to return to school in March. In response, her organization is building a center in Kabul to provide women with basic sewing, crafts and secondary education, as well as maternity care and general health services.

She hopes to expand to other parts of the country in the coming months.

But Ghafari knows that his efforts alone are not enough. This week, as she accepted the 2022 International Women’s Rights Award from the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, she urged the world to do something about it.

“I urge you to do all you can to get our people out of this predicament and to raise your voice for humanity. The solution is not for everyone to sit still and send in statements. We we need action at least after seven months of darkness for the men and women of my country,” she said in her acceptance speech at the UN.

“My country has been at war for 40 years. Achieving peace in a country that has been at war for decades is never easy. It often involves making unpleasant choices and talking to people you find obnoxious. And yet there is no other way. This is how peace was achieved in Northern Ireland and Yugoslavia, and I think this is the only way to achieve it in Afghanistan,” she continued.

In addition to prioritizing human rights and women’s rights in any international talks with the Taliban, she called on world leaders not to close their doors to Afghans seeking safe haven. Referring to the welcome that many European countries offer to those fleeing the war in Ukraine, Ghafari added: “Our blood is not different in color from Ukrainians.”

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Zarifa Ghafari: ‘The Taliban cannot erase us’
While France proclaims its blindness to race, Rokhaya Diallo (1978), ensures that the glaring existence of racial inequalities is known. She founded Les Indivisibles in 2007, an anti-racist organization that uses humor and irony to counter racial discrimination.
The French journalist, writer and activist is a driving force for minority rights and racial, gender and religious equality.
Born to Senegalese and Gambian Muslim parents, Diallo grew up in La Courneuve, a diverse French suburb, where her color was never in question. She is involved in local politics, chairs the Youth Council of La Courneuve and is actively involved with the anti-sexist organization Mix-Cité.
The “where are you really from?” The question started when she started working in Paris, when Diallo realized that people perceived her differently.
Today, Diallo promotes equality and pluralism – a political philosophy that recognizes diversity – through advocacy campaigns that promote racial and gender justice.
She questions the roles given to black actors on French screens in her 2020 documentary, Acting while Black: Blackness on French Screens and her book, Don’t mansplain me! (2020), reveals how masculine patterns make women invisible in society. She is also the author of Racism: The Guide (2011) and France Belongs to Us (2012).
Diallo has been listed as one of the 28 most powerful people in Europe in 2021 and is also on Britain’s powerful media list of the top 30 black people in Europe. His fight against racism earned him the Fight against Racism and Discrimination award in 2012.
Diallo has degrees in law and audio-visual marketing and sales and is currently a scholar-in-residence at Georgetown University’s Gender + Justice Initiative program.

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