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An Activist-Led Conversation on Afghanistan and Women’s Rights

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UCI, Cal State Long Beach and Northridge collaborated on a feminism, women’s rights and Afghanistan event called “Islamization, Women’s Rights and Feminist Engagement: A Conversation on Afghanistan Confirmation” on Thursday, Oct. 7. The event was hosted by Southern California-based professor-activists Catherine Sameh, Azza Basarudin and Khanum Shaikh, who have been working together since 2015.

Relations between Afghanistan and the United States have been a topic of ongoing discussion for years. Recently, President Joe Biden decided to pull all U.S. troops from Afghanistan, leaving the Afghan government without Western support. 

Anila Daulatzai, Harvard Divinity School women’s studies and Islamic studies professor and socio-cultural anthropologist with active research projects in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, spoke about her opinions on Afghanistan’s current and historic issues. 

According to Daulatzai, Oct. 7 is an important day in Afghan history because it represents the 20th anniversary of the criminal invasion and occupation of the country. Daulatzai compared the invasion to the events of 9/11 because of the innocent lives that were lost.  

Daulatzai went on to explain how Afghanistan was always under the control of outside forces, dating back to the 1970s. Occupation forces included the U.S. as well as the Soviet Union. The Taliban ruled over Afghanistan until October 2001 when coalition forces invaded the country. 

“Americans have been at war for 20 years and they didn’t even know about it until now,” Daulatzai said. “Afghans have been at war for 43 years and they have always known it.”

Daulatzai went on to talk about how dispersed Afghans are due to the major refugee crisis and how they face discrimination everywhere they go. 

CUNY College of Staten Island associate sociology professor Saadia Toor connected her personal experiences with the Afghanistan crisis. Toor described the issue as something forgotten, as if the world had amnesia. 

“The things that were being said in the media, the conversations I was having in my circle … this war has receded in the back of people’s imaginations,” Toor said.

Manijeh Moradian, Barnard College and Columbia University professor in the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, focused her discussion on the different forms of activism that took place during the start of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan.

“How do we build sustainable movements to end the U.S. war machine?” Moradian said. “How is gender inequality exacerbated in war?”

Moradian continued to speak on behalf of Muslim women and the narrative that they need saving from Islam. Countries like the U.S. have used this narrative to forcibly implement democracy in other nations.

The conversation on Islamophobia and women’s rights in the Middle East continuously shifts due to occupied lands being mistreated. Muslim communities around the world have been subjected to unprecedented levels of monitoring, classification and security. 

Felwa Alrasheed is a Campus News Intern for the fall 2021 quarter. She can be reached at fsalrash@uci.edu.