In high heels, head scarves, Afghan women protest harassment

Thu Jul 14, 2011 11:08am EDT
 
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By Michelle Nichols

KABUL (Reuters) - In high heels and head scarves, a small band of Afghan women took to the streets of the country's capital, Kabul, on Thursday to protest harassment by men in public places.

Carrying signs, that read "This street also belongs to me" and "We won't stand insults anymore" the 20 or so women -- and some men marching in solidarity -- protested being abused, groped and followed on the city's streets.

Afghanistan remains a deeply conservative country, with heavy cultural and social restrictions on women's freedoms, even though the ouster of the hardline Taliban nearly a decade ago brought huge improvements in their legal rights.

"The idea behind street harassment is that women should not be out of their houses," said organizer Noor Jahan Akbar, 19, founder of rights group Young Women for Change.

"We want to fight that mentality because we believe that these streets belong to us as much as they belong to the men of this country," adding that she herself had suffered harassment so persistent it made her reluctant to walk anywhere.

International attention has often focused on the most extreme attacks on women's freedom, including acid attacks on girls walking to school and mysterious gas poisonings at several girls' schools, including in Kabul.

But Afghan women say they face a barrage of lower level persecution that can make daily life a challenge.

"What we want to wear, how we want to walk, that's our decision," said Anita Haidery, 19, a film and computer science student who also helped organize the protest.   Continued...

 
<p>Afghan women protest against street harassment in Kabul July 14, 2011. In high heels and head scarves, a small band of Afghan women took to the streets of the country's capital Kabul on Thursday to protest harassment by men. The signs read, "Street violence is illegal" (in black), "We will not be silent in the face of street harassment" (in red) and "To disgrace women is to disgrace humanity" (in blue). REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail</p>