First, Eid mubarak! I hope this Eid al-Fitr brings each of you and your loved ones peace and happiness.Secondly, and on a more somber note, I believe this to be a dark week for my friends and colleagues in Faryab province.
While I am very relieved that the four kidnapped men have been released by the Taliban, the terms of their release, however, are very worrying.
Negotiations resulted in the INGO agreeing to withdraw all of its female staff from that particular district. I am still seeking clarification as to how the negotiation impacted the participation of women in projects. However, with no female staff to facilitate work, the likelihood of any women wanting or being permitted to participate in projects with only male staff is very small.
The implications for women in Faryab, and indeed all over Afghanistan, are enormous and overwhelmingly ominous. Conceding to Taliban demands can only lead to more injustices.
Just over one year ago, Faryab was a relative bastion of peace. An illustration of this was my ability to move freely around Maimana and nearby districts on my own, driving my own vehicle. I did not fear reprisal as I had the backing of village elders who assured me that the Taliban wouldn't infiltrate these areas due to very strong anti-Taliban bond among Uzbeks.
All of this appears to be changing at a rapid pace. While I am frustrated that my own work will stall due to these shifts, I am devastated to think of how my female friends and colleagues in Faryab are feeling. Their freedom to move, learn and work had improved somewhat since 2001, only now, after 9 years of foreign intervention, to fall into a pattern of regression.
I fear the events of this past week signal the eventual realization of some of our worst fears. I hope my fear is unfounded.
I once again call upon my Muslim friends to save a prayer, but this time for the women of Faryab and Afghanistan, that they may face no persecution for continuing their courageous battle against the increasing prevalence of misogynous injustices.