A former female Afghan judge has warned that women are being followed by the Taliban as punishment for taking part in protests standing up for their rights.
Marzia Babakarkhail, a former judge who fled Afghanistan in the 1990s after the Taliban tried to kill her, told HuffPost UK that she had heard from women in Kabul who had been on the streets protesting and now feared repercussions from the Taliban.
And she issued a stark warning to the West not to trust the Taliban’s “tricky” new image as a group that had reformed and would respect women’s rights.
“I have a special feeling for the young generation in Afghanistan,” she said.
“Our enemy are working very hard to finish us, they think this will be the end of Afghanistan. This is not the reality because you can see the protests by women in Kabul, Herat and different provinces in Afghanistan.
“I received information that now they are following the women who were in the protests, they are searching for those women to find them, and they will punish them - maybe they will put them in prison.
“What they will do, the Taliban know. I don’t know.”
In recent days there have been scenes shared on social media of women protesting against Taliban rule and for their rights on the streets of Kabul.
On Monday the Kabul-based news agency Tolo news reported that small demonstrations turned violent after the Taliban used electric tasers and tear gas on protestors.
Since then, women have staged more demonstrations in protest at the formation of an all-male interim Taliban government, which has also been criticised for including members who are linked to attacks on US forces.
On Wednesday Downing Street said it wanted to see a “diverse” leadership in Afghanistan but that was not what had been seen so far.
“Absolutely we would want to see, in any situation, a diverse group of leadership which seeks to address the pledges that the Taliban themselves set out, and that’s not what we have seen, and we will continue to judge them on their actions,” the prime minister’s official spokesperson had said.
But Babakarkhail warned that the Taliban “had not changed” and that they were only seeking to project a new image to deceive the West.
“Now their PR is very tricky,” she said.
“They became very clever. They were taught by the leaders how to play the game with people’s minds, with the United Nations and with communities who want to help Afghanistan because of the global recognition.
“It’s not the reality. I’m involved in Afghanistan - every minute they are going to women judges’ houses. They escaped and are going from house to house - where is the amnesty?”
Babakarkhail was born Polkhomri, a city in the north of Afghanistan, where she worked as a judge. She created the Afghan Women Social and Cultural Organisation to bring about cultural change for women and also set up literacy schools for girls in villages.
Then, in 1997, she was forced to flee Afghanistan after the Taliban tried to kill her twice shortly after assuming power.
Their first attempt on her life came when they turned up at her home and threatened her mother. She managed to save herself by hiding in the sewers behind her house.
The second time the Taliban ran her over in her car and left her for dead, forcing her to leave Afghanistan for Pakistan.
In 2008 Babakarkhail moved to the UK, where she now works as a caseworker for an MP.
Babakarkhail said her message to the people of Afghanistan was that the country needed a “big war against the Taliban”.
“We need to stand, and we need war - just go and finish them,” she urged her fellow Afghans.
“It’s not easy for me as a judge, a person who left Afghanistan because of the Taliban.
“I have received 300 messages from female judges and they are escaping from house to house.
“Why did we achieve everything and why did we lose everything? Our freedom, our security, our safety?”
“Can somebody tell me - what did we do wrong?”
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