GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Women and girls in Afghanistan continue to face challenges as Taliban authorities impose rules threatening their rights and freedoms.
Afghan women in West Michigan are joining groups across the world by holding a “Let Afghan Girls Learn” rally. The Grand Rapids group met at Rosa Parks Circle at 11:30 a.m.
“They’ve banned them from universities, working in organizations that were run by them. Female athletes aren’t allowed to continue their sports or even be in public,” Freshta Tori Jan said.
Tori-Jan, 23, escaped her home country when she was a teenager and came to the United States for a better life.
The country had already been in turmoil but when the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan in August 2020 following the U.S. pulling troops from the country, Tori-Jan began working to help her family and others escape.
She believes the country isn’t a safe place to be as the Taliban continues to severely restrict women and girls from receiving an education and interacting in the public.
“It’s quite a nightmare,” she said. “There are so many girls, specifically the groups that I have been in communication with, that have texted and said ‘We are not able to do anything. All we can do is with the resources we have, raise our voices and contact you to speak for us.'”
“For us to lose that again overnight, it’s going to be another generation of chaos. We’re going to raise another generation that doesn’t know Afghan history, that doesn’t know how to bring economic development to the country. We can’t have that,” Tori-Jan said.
Hundreds of families have escaped their home country and relocated to West Michigan. Some of those women will speak at the rally about their experiences living in Afghanistan.
“They have no good intentions for the country or for anybody else in the world. If history has taught us anything, we need to learn to stop any forms of violence taking place,” Tori-Jan said. “We’ve had over 400 families get resettled here in Grand Rapids and West Michigan. Their families are affected by what’s happening. They are now new Americans here who are part of our community. It’s our responsibility to help them.”
For those who couldn’t attend the rally, the group is asking that schools provide online and virtual schooling and resources. They’re also calling for international communities to place economic sanctions on the Taliban like the one United States Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced in October.
The visa restriction policy applies to current or former Taliban members, members of non-state security groups and other individuals believed to be involved in repressing women and girls in Afghanistan through restrictive policies and violence.
“As a grim example, for more than a year, Afghanistan remains the only country in the world where girls are systemically barred from attending school beyond the sixth grade, with no return date in sight,” Blinken wrote in a statement.