“I was bandaged, feet and hands were tied. My legs were held down, and one of the prison guards beat the soles of my feet with a cable. Sometimes they put my feet in the water and shocked me with electric wires until I passed out. They also put a plastic bag over my head, which they only took away shortly before I died of suffocation,” says Tamana Zaryab Paryani.
In January 2022, the 25-year-old was arrested in Kabul in the middle of the night and put in prison. For three weeks, she was brutally tortured, abused, and interrogated. Her three younger sisters ended up in prison with her. Tamana had previously organized demonstrations against Taliban rule.
In the eyes of the Taliban, Tamana violated their new laws, above all by publicly burning a burqa, because since taking power in August 2021, women are no longer allowed to actively participate in political and social life. Since then, the self-realization of all women has been severely restricted. All women must veil themselves. In Kabul and other cities, the Taliban put up posters comparing unveiled women to animals.
Tamana Zaryab Paryani studied law and worked as a journalist for a newspaper before the Taliban took power. Like many other women in Kabul, she did not accept these new Taliban regulations. She was one of the organizers of protests by hundreds of women in early September 2021, which the Taliban brutally met with beatings, gun violence and detention of the participants.
Tamana himself was not immediately arrested. It was only months later that armed Taliban fighters forced their way into her apartment, where she lived with her three sisters. Tamana quick-wittedly filmed the forced entry and shared the images on Facebook. Her arrest was followed by many people all over the world – it was probably this call for help that ultimately saved her and her sisters’ lives. She just didn’t know that at the time.
Her sisters Zarmina, Shafiqa and Kerishma were arrested the same night as Tamana and taken to the same prison. However, the sisters did not have any contact with each other. They too were brutally tortured for 26 days. “I had never thought about death before,” says 17-year-old Shafiqa. “I was of an age when such a thought was alien to me. But since I was captured by the Taliban, I couldn’t think of anything else.”
In February 2022, after growing pressure from aid organizations and human rights activists, the Taliban released a large number of demonstrators from prisons in exchange for financial guarantees. The women had to hand over documents of their homes and belongings to the Taliban and from then on were not allowed to take part in protests, speak to the media or engage in politics. Tamana and her sisters were allowed to return home on February 13, 2022 and saw how the ban on traveling alone without a male companion, the exclusion of girls and women from school and university attendance and the strict obligation to wear the veil were increasingly curtailing women’s rights became.
The news of the detention of Tamana and her sisters sparked widespread reactions on social media.
The video of the arrest that Tamana recorded drew the attention of many people to the fate of the sisters – in Germany, for example, the Kabul Airlift, the editors of the women’s magazine EMMA and the Society for International Cooperation GIZ. Tamana and the family of ten were able to emigrate to Germany via Pakistan at the beginning of October 2022 and have since settled here for the rest of their lives.
It is now a year since the horrors of prison, but Tamana, Shafiqa, Kerishma and Zarmina have not yet come to terms with the weeks of torment. They suffer from anxiety and bad nightmares. “In the cell where we were locked, I heard the screams of other women and girls,” says Shafiqa: “The screams ring in my ears to this day. I’m shaking and I have goosebumps.” A year later, the youngest sister still remembers very clearly how she feared that every breath could be her last.
The sisters know that they are safe in Germany and that they were very lucky. But thousands and thousands of women and men are still trapped in the “Taliban terror in Afghanistan”, they suffer in fear and terror every day and fear for their lives, they emphasize. But they also learn that since their arrival in Germany, they have been met with hateful accusations from Taliban sympathizers living here, and that they are even threatened.
With tears in her eyes, Zarmina worries about the other demonstrators in Afghanistan who have not been able to leave the country like she did. Many of the girls who were sexually abused in prison have committed suicide out of fear for their reputation and that of their families, she says.
“We fought for justice and equality, we made sacrifices,” says Tamana about her time in Afghanistan. “But we also suffer here for our compatriots in our homeland.”
As Tamana looks to the future, she fears an even “more brutal, even more cruel Taliban rule.” Together with her sisters, she appeals to the international community not to harm women in Afghanistan, despite the difficult situation of women in Iran and Ukraine forget.
Author: Nadia Fasel
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The original of this post “Afghan activist: “We will not give up the fight”” comes from Deutsche Welle.