The Limited Times

Now you can see non-English news...

Kabul's only women's library closes due to Taliban threats and harassment


The center offered the loan of books and educational workshops. One of its founders, Laila Basim, is targeted by the Afghan regime for her activism as a protester: "Our fight is that of pens against guns"

The United Nations considers that the deprivation of rights of women and girls in Afghanistan imposed by the Taliban "could amount to gender-based persecution", which constitutes a crime against humanity.

They cannot study from the age of 12;

neither work in the Administration nor in NGOs and not even enter parks and gardens.

They are also prohibited from traveling without being accompanied by a close male relative.

Afghans are left with very few rights and even fewer possibilities to access knowledge.

Since March 13, they have also been deprived of one of the last remaining strongholds of culture and freedom in Kabul: the Zan Library.

Two weeks ago, that library – the only one for women in the city – had to close due to threats and harassment from the Taliban,

explained by WhatsApp from the Afghan capital one of its founders, the 28-year-old economist Laila Basim.

When that library disappeared, laments the young woman, "a hope was closed."

“[Afghans] no longer have a place to talk and study,” she adds.

Zan, the name of the library, means "woman" in Dari, the dialect of Persian that about 40% of Afghans have as their mother tongue.

Opened in August 2022 — coinciding with the first anniversary of the return to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan — its objectives were to "promote culture and reading among women and girls, "who have closed the doors of schools and universities" , says Basim, but also become an act of "civilian resistance by women against the misguided policies of the Taliban."

Located in a basement of the market in the Red Pol neighborhood of the Afghan capital, the library offered its "more than 400 members," explains Basim, the loan of books in four languages ​​(Persian, Pashto, English and Arabic), as well as workshops free entry and free training sessions on “women's rights, politics, religion and other topics” twice a week, in order to “increase women's knowledge”.

All of her funds, which this activist estimates at 5,000 volumes, the shelves, tables, and chairs, were the product of donations, especially from Afghan women —among the donors there are also some men— and from “foreign friends”, she assures without offering more. details.

“In the seven months that the library has lasted, the Taliban sealed the door for us twice, but we opened it with the help of friends and continued working.

However, the Taliban did not stop there.

They started coming every day and asking us what was going on there and what the readers were doing in the library.

One day, four members of the security forces stormed in and started asking me who had given us permission to open the store.

Then they told us that a woman's place is in her house and not outside of her, ”says Basim.

“For 19 months [since August 2021] my colleagues and I have been fighting against the policies of the Taliban.

Our combat is a war of pens against guns”, says this woman.

Both she and the other volunteers at the library have received, and still receive —she emphasizes— telephone threats.

The thousands of books that they had treasured for months are now stored in her house.

Poster of the "Zan" library in Kabul, with the motto "Read, learn, inspire".

Photo courtesy of the library.

At gunpoint

Laila Basim was already in the crosshairs of fundamentalists before she founded Zan.

She graduated in Economics, she worked in the Cabinet of the Minister of Economy of the previous Afghan Government until the Taliban took Kabul.

Like many other highly qualified Afghans, she was then expelled from her job, for which she found herself, overnight, unemployed and without income, like her husband, a lawyer who is "her main support" in what he calls his “fight”.

She had to sell her jewelry to survive, but almost immediately, she co-founded an organization of women determined to stand up to the radicals—the Spontaneous Movement of Afghan Women Protesters—another reason that has drawn the ire of the current regime. .

The United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, presented a report in February in which he not only denounced the curtailment of the rights of Afghan women, but also the prohibition to demonstrate and the "excessive use of force”, with beatings and warning shots to disperse those participating in those protests.

The document claimed that Afghan protesters — “often women” — are subjected to “threats, intimidation, arrest and ill-treatment” while in the custody of the authorities.

Basim's account confirms some of these accusations: “In December 2021, we demonstrated in the street and an Iranian television interviewed me about the killings in Panshir province [northeast Afghanistan].

After that interview, the Taliban called me and warned me that they would find my house and kill me.

In another protest, in front of the United Nations headquarters in Kabul, a Taliban intelligence officer rebuked us [the protesters], drew his gun and pointed it at me, telling me that if we didn't leave in five minutes, he would hit me. a shot," he says.

“In these 19 months, I have had to move six times,” he asserts.

This Afghan believes that “creating a library is neither the first nor the only way to fight the Taliban and their misogynistic ideology.

For us, there is no other way, we have to keep fighting.

As long as we are alive, we will continue fighting for our rights and for equality.”

Follow all the international information on




, or in

our weekly newsletter


Source: elparis

All news articles on 2023-03-28

You may like

Trends 24h

News/Politics 2023-05-30T04:13:12.229Z
News/Politics 2023-05-29T17:01:57.437Z
News/Politics 2023-05-29T09:13:12.102Z


© Communities 2019 - Privacy

The information on this site is from external sources that are not under our control.
The inclusion of any links does not necessarily imply a recommendation or endorse the views expressed within them.