Survival in Afghanistan is really difficult: Afghan social activist Crystal Bayat

“It’s as if the women have been imprisoned and the children have lost all hope”, says Crystal Bayat, Afghan activist and human rights advocate

Crystal Bayat
Crystal Bayat

Garima Sadhwani

Stepping out on the streets to protest against the Taliban rule, and standing up for the rights of all Afghans came with a whole lot of risks, but that’s what Crystal Bayat did after the Taliban took over Kabul.

24-year old Bayat, from Kabul, is an activist and human rights advocate. She graduated from Delhi University with a Political Science degree in 2019. She says the situation in Afghanistan is worse than what anyone had expected, and worse than what we’re seeing on the news channels.

“They’ve announced that women should not go to offices and universities for a while. I think it’s just the start of what’s to come,” she says.

She adds that the Taliban have also given a 20-day ultimatum to the women. “I asked them why 20 days, and they said that after the negotiation is complete and the Emirate is in power, we’ll impose what we want,” Bayat says.

Bayat says these 20 days are all that the women of Afghanistan have to raise their voice and “seek mercy” from the United Nations, international agencies and other countries. Right now, the Taliban won’t use violence against women because they are seeking international legitimacy, says Bayat.

But this interim period hasn’t stopped the Taliban from firing at the protestors. Bayat recalls that on August 19, when she marched with the Afghan flag wrapped around her shoulders, shouting “Long Live Afghanistan”, the Taliban fired shots in the air more than nine times. “Three men got injured, they broke the mobile phones of two or three men, and one was beaten badly. But we took the risk of being shot when we came out,” she says.

The activist says that last week was the first time she came face-to-face with a Talib in her life, but she quickly realised that they are not a “people of words”. “They have guns on their shoulders, and they have rockets. They are just walking down the streets and it’s very scary. But if you try to talk to them, and you say just two sentences that are not in their favour, they will start shooting,” Bayat sighs.

Bayat agrees that the Taliban takeover is very dangerous for the women and children of Afghanistan. “It’s as if the women have been imprisoned and the children have lost all hope”. But she feels that not enough is being said about the risks and threats that men face. Men are facing restrictions too. “Men are not allowed to go to the gym anymore, they say that it is Haraam,” says Bayat.

She adds that on Wednesday, a male friend of hers was killed by the Taliban because he was a Republican.

Bayat also says that the taking over of the Taliban has caused an economic crisis in the country. She adds, “Some shops are open but people are not stepping out because of fear. There is no money in the banks and ATMs. Nothing is normal right now. Survival in Afghanistan is really difficult.” All she hopes right now is that the international community continues its humanitarian aid towards Afghanistan.

She has another request for the international community- Don’t recognize the Taliban as a legitimate government. “The Taliban’s population is 1-2 lakh, but there are 40 million Afghans. The majority, millions like me, don’t accept this. How can they impose themselves on us?” she asks.

Bayat adds that they have extremist, immoral ideologies and that no one is free under the Taliban. “The world should not recognize a terrorist group as a legal government in our country. Their name should be in a terrorist group only. We don’t have a stable, trusted government. Everything is illegal,” she says.

As a political activist, Bayat thinks federalism would have been the best kind of governance system for Afghanistan, but that seems like a distant dream, what they have right now is “just tyranny”, she says. “Afghanistan has become Pakistan’s colony,” adds Bayat.

Having been one of the few women protestors, Bayat has come under the scanner and is facing threats. She says, “I don’t want to leave Afghanistan, but in order to raise my voice and fight for my goals, I have to be alive. I need to raise my voice for the future.” Bayat feels it's time that the women of Afghanistan came out and talked to the international communities with women leaders and social activists and formed a network to protect their rights.

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