In an emotional yet inspiring episode of “The Wide Angle” entitled “Kabul Woman Risks Life to Call for International Action,” Brendon Fallon interviews Farzana Kochai, a female member of the Afghan Parliament and advocate for women’s rights, about the situation unfolding in Afghanistan. Since the Biden administration’s rushed withdrawal of United States troops from Afghanistan, chaos and tragedy have followed in its wake. With the last military plane out of the country leaving so many behind, the people of Afghanistan as well as some Americans are abandoned and left to face an unknown and insecure future.
When asked about the current situation in Afghanistan, Kochai says that having the Taliban back in power was not a completely unexpected thing to happen, “But the way it happened, it just has broken the people and the nation and the region and everything else collapsed.” She points out that the way it happened was completely unexpected and disheartening, especially for women who will have to face increased fears and concerns about their safety and the role they will be allowed to play in society.
Kochai says she can’t describe how she felt in the moment the Taliban took control of Kabul. “We lost everything at the same time,” expressing that they had no one to act on their behalf and were lost and betrayed by everyone they thought they could trust. Women are grappling with fears about the future because nothing is yet clear. The people of Afghanistan are dealing with so many questions and simply waiting to find out what the answers will be. “People of afghanistan, we the women, and the young generation and everyone, we didn’t deserve that.”
According to Kochai, the current situation in Kabul is the same as it was the first day the Taliban took power, with people rushing to escape or hide in an attempt to find safety for themselves and their families. She says people are afraid they will be killed, kidnapped, or forced to face other serious penalties. Everyone is waiting for clear orders from the top, but although the Taliban has held a few press conferences and spoken individually to the media, the Taliban is not giving any clear responses to the journalists’ questions. The current narrative is that once they establish their new government then the rules and regulations will be more clear, especially regarding issues like women being allowed to go to work or not.
The Taliban said they would allow women some freedom, but within the rules of Islamic and Sharia law, which is unsettling for many because no one knows what that will look like. The regime is also saying that they will decide later what they will do with those who oppose them. When asked if Afghan workers and government officials would be targeted, Kochai says yes. She is concerned for their safety, especially because of her background in politics and civil activism. “I grew up here with democracy and experiencing those things: Freedom of speech, freedom of work, and freedom of ideas. So I’m afraid for myself and my life and my family, and everyone is.”
Despite the many risks, Kochai acknowledges the strong beliefs and courage have kept her from trying to leave. Describing how difficult it was for her after hearing that the Afghanistan President had left, Kochai says that the news broke her as much as the Taliban taking over. “We have some responsibilities and obligations about our people and our country, as a leader, as an MP, as a politician … I personally feel that responsibility.” For that reason she will stay with her people, her family, and her constituency, noting that women will need someone to speak up and fight for their lives. “I don’t know what will happen, but the thing that keeps me here, that I am choosing to stay here, is to be with my people, my women, and my country as we can’t just leave … and we need some people here to speak up for us, for the women, for the girls, for the younger generation.”
Kabul Woman Risks Life to Call for International Action | The Wide Angle [Full Episode]
Watch the full episode here.
Kochai has already begun to advocate for women and freedom by being the first female politician to take part in a political debate since the Taliban took power. In the very beginning, she was in hiding and unable to step outside. As she followed the news she was disheartened because no local media outlets would cover the unfolding events out of fear for their lives. On the third day, Kochai saw that there was an upcoming political debate with only men participating, and she went to the group in order to take part.
Since then she has attended a handful of meetings and spoken about the future of the country, of women, and of the new regime. Kochai says these actions could cost her her life, recognizing that “anything could happen to you.” However, although the Taliban doesn’t consider human rights and political activism to be acceptable, she said “we have to show up. We have to show our actual face, the reality of women, the reality of our 20 years.”
In regards to foreign governments seemingly legitimizing the actions of the Taliban government, Kochai says it is not safe for her to talk about that, citing no one can say or do anything against the Taliban. However, she notes that only weeks ago, the Taliban was a group of people fighting a legal government, but now much of the international community is giving legitimacy to this group and their actions. She says foreign governments played a key role in the events that have taken place in her country, and it will be hard to ever trust them again. Kochai expresses her gratitude to the people of the foreign countries that have supported and contributed to helping Afghanistan, but makes an obvious distinction between the people and their governments. “But the decision makers, the leaders, just betrayed us, as our government did. And we feel that, and we believe that.”
Although Kochai is so thankful to other people who are trying to help, the reality remains that there are millions of people abandoned in Afghanistan. “We need aides, we need food, we need everything for them. They have been through so much. They just believed the international community, they believed the government, they did everything they could have done.” For the time being, Kochai says she wishes that the international community could have played a role in preventing what happened, and to now try and keep the Taliban in check, but doesn’t know if that is even possible. “I just am helpless and disappointed.”
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