Understanding the nature of these protests is important for any future political roadmap for Afghanistan. These protests debunk the assumption that the entire country is tribal, conservative, and support the Taliban. Further, women, who are strategically challenging the moral and political legitimacy of the Taliban’s rule, are part of the wider resistance against the Taliban. It is very important to understand and acknowledge the demographic and sociological basis of the current women’s rights movement. The protests represent the will of a particular socio-cultural segment of Afghanistan that is challenging the Taliban’s power and seeks to transplant its domination with emancipation. That Kabul and northern Afghanistan—from Kabul to Balkh and from Herat to Takhar—are the heartland of the protest indicates that Afghanistan is, at least, morally and culturally divided into two different zones: one anti-Taliban side claiming a liberal, pluralistic, and democratic polity and another side who aims to engage with Taliban in hopes of reforming it. Finally, the brutal suppression of the rights protests shows that there is little room to reach an agreement even on a minimal set of basic rights with the Taliban. Hence, there is little possibility of peaceful coexistence with them.
Omar Sadr is a Research Scholar at the Center for Governance and Markets, University of Pittsburgh.