In a compelling interview, we had the privilege of speaking with Rohullah Mohammad, a prominent Afghan journalist and human rights activist renowned for his unwavering commitment to promoting women’s rights in Afghanistan. We delved into his early life, the #WhereIsMyName campaign, the challenges he faced, and his steadfast dedication to the cause.
Q1: Can you tell us about your early life and what motivated you to become an activist for women’s rights in Afghanistan?
Rohullah Mohammad (RM): Certainly. I was born in Afghanistan in 1994, and my journey towards activism began during my higher education. I studied Journalism at Marmara University, where my passion for advocating for social change through media took root. Witnessing the injustices faced by women in Afghanistan fueled my determination to be a voice for change.
Q2: The #WhereIsMyName campaign gained significant attention. Could you share the genesis of this campaign and its objectives?
RM: In 2017, I, along with Laleh Osmany, joined the #WhereIsMyName social media campaign. It aimed to challenge a deeply rooted Afghan tradition where women were denied the right to have their names used in public. This resulted in the absence of women’s names on official documents like birth or death certificates and even on tombstones. Our goal was to empower women and raise awareness about their right to be recognized and acknowledged by their names.
Q3: How did the campaign receive support and what impact did it have?
RM: The campaign garnered widespread support from individuals and organizations advocating for women’s rights in Afghanistan. Prominent figures like Mary Akrami, Fawzia Koofi, Aryana Sayeed, Farhad Darya, and Maryam Sama lent their support, acknowledging the significance of this change not only for women’s rights but as a fundamental human right. It marked a positive step toward establishing women’s identity, as Mary Akrami, the chair of the Afghan Women’s Network, noted.
Q4: Were there any challenges or opposition you faced during the campaign?
RM: Absolutely. Despite the positive reception, there was opposition from groups and individuals who viewed the campaign as a violation of Afghan values or a concession to foreign influences, particularly the USA. The Taliban, in talks with the Afghan government about power-sharing in 2020, vehemently opposed our objectives, highlighting the immense challenges in advancing women’s rights in Afghanistan.
Q5: Your activism came with risks. Can you tell us about the threats and perils you encountered?
RM: Yes, being at the forefront of the #WhereIsMyName campaign and my work as a journalist exposed me to threats of violence. However, these dangers did not deter me. I remained steadfast in my dedication to advancing the rights of women in Afghanistan. I continued my efforts to shine a light on their struggles, no matter the risks.
Q6: Given the recent events in Afghanistan, where the Taliban has regained control, can you provide insight into the current situation of women in the country?
RM: The current situation in Afghanistan is deeply concerning, especially for women. The Taliban’s resurgence has raised fears about the erosion of women’s rights that were hard-won over the years. Women’s ability to go to work, girls’ access to schools and universities, and their overall freedom are now under serious threat.
Q7: How has the Taliban’s return to power impacted the progress made in women’s rights, particularly in education and employment?
RM: The Taliban’s return to power has had a chilling effect on the progress made in women’s rights. Many fear that the gains in women’s education and employment made in recent years may be rolled back. The Taliban’s policies in the past, which restricted women’s access to education and work, are causing understandable concern among women and girls.
Q8: What role can activists like you and the international community play in safeguarding the rights of Afghan women in this critical time?
RM: Activists both within and outside Afghanistan are essential in keeping the spotlight on the rights of Afghan women. We can continue to raise awareness, mobilize support, and advocate for the protection of women’s rights. The international community has a crucial role to play by pressuring the Taliban to respect the rights of women and girls and providing assistance to those at risk.
Q9: In the face of these challenges, do you remain hopeful for the future of women in Afghanistan?
RM: While the current situation is undoubtedly grim, I remain hopeful. The resilience and determination of Afghan women and the global solidarity in support of their rights are powerful forces for change. We must continue to work tirelessly to ensure that the progress made in women’s rights in Afghanistan is not lost and that women and girls can continue to pursue education and employment opportunities without fear.
Q10: In summary, what message do you have for the world regarding your journey and the fight for women’s rights in Afghanistan?
RM: My journey as an Afghan journalist and human rights activist has been marked by an unyielding commitment to challenge oppressive norms and advocate for gender equality. Through the #WhereIsMyName campaign, we made a significant impact in raising awareness about women’s rights in Afghanistan. I want the world to know that the pursuit of justice and equality knows no bounds. In a country where the fight for women’s rights often comes with great risks, I remain dedicated to the cause and continue to be a beacon of hope for justice and equality in the region.
In this exclusive interview, Rohullah Mohammad’s dedication and courage in the face of adversity serve as an inspiration to us all. His story is a reminder that the fight for human rights and gender equality must continue, no matter the challenges encountered along the way. Rohullah Mohammad’s insights highlight the urgent need for continued advocacy and international support to protect the rights of Afghan women. The future of women in Afghanistan remains uncertain, but the commitment to their empowerment and equality remains steadfast.