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On two-year anniversary of Taliban takeover, newly arrived Utah Afghan refugees protest regime

Aug 16, 2023, 7:25 AM

SALT LAKE CITY — Refugees in Utah gathered Tuesday to protest the Taliban’s rule and call on the U.S. government to take action on the two-year anniversary of the regime’s takeover of Kabul and Afghanistan.

Some of those refugees just arrived in Utah a couple of weeks ago, as people continue fleeing from Taliban rule.

On the corner of West Temple and 400 South outside the federal courthouse Tuesday, people gathered holding signs with phrases like “UNITE 4 AFGHAN WOMEN” and “USA Must Not Recognize Taliban’s Unjust Take over of AFG.”

“Ban Ban, Taliban!” The group shouted, led by Afghan social rights activist Crystal Bayat.

As they crossed the street in front of cars, to a few honks, they continued chanting.

“Taliban are terrorists!” they yelled.

On the day that marked two years since the Taliban takeover, they called for a take-down — and lifting women up.

For people like Frozan Hatami, who arrived in Utah from Afghanistan two weeks ago, the message was just as urgent as it was two years ago. Hatami explained that she was an activist against the Taliban.

Frozan Hatami stands outside the federal courthouse to protest against the Taliban. (KSL TV)

“We are not allowed to continue education. We are not allowed to work. We are not allowed to, like live a normal life and breathe freely in Afghanistan,” she said. “As a woman, I didn’t even feel like I’m a human being, because everything was restricted for women in Afghanistan.”

The danger for her to live in her home country grew as did her voice. She didn’t want to leave her country, she said, but it became a security issue to stay.

“They cannot stand against Taliban,” Hatami said, of female activists back home. “If they stand against Taliban, they will be shoot or arrested by that extreme group of Taliban.”

Laila Basim and Shamail Tawana Nasiri feel that firsthand. They also arrived in Utah two weeks ago from Afghanistan. They visited the Utah State Capitol Tuesday evening to take pictures for social media of them signs that read, “DON’T RECOGNIZE THE GENDER APARTHEID REGIME IN AFGHANISTAN.”

The two spear-headed resistance movements in Kabul, saying the Taliban shot at them, beat them and attacked them for advocating for women’s rights.

Laila Basim and Shamail Tawana Nasiri stand with signs in front of the Utah Capitol Tuesday, two weeks after fleeing to Utah from Afghanistan. (KSL TV)

Basim explained in Persian that she was pregnant and lost her baby while being beaten by the Taliban last August.

Nasiri, who created the Afghanistan Women’s Movement for Justice and Freedom, said the Taliban were following her to her home and threatening her life.

“And the living for me in Afghanistan was hard and danger. And we have no choice. And we leave our country,” she said.

Their movement will continue in Utah, where they won’t face the threat of physical violence or death.

“We’re happy that being here to have a good life and stay away from discrimination and genocide, and have lives same as other human that has life here. And we’re happy to be here,” Basim said, through a translator.

Nasiri said her family, movement members, and media members are still in danger in Kabul.

“I feel just safe here, and all of my thinking is about womans who are right now fights against the Taliban in the Kabul,” Nasiri said.

Back at the federal courthouse, Hatami walked across 400 South holding a sign, garnering support in the form of honks.

She can now fight freely, without fear and she hopes other Utahns will join her.

“Whatever you can do, just to stand with us,” she said. “Support Afghan women in Afghanistan.”

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On two-year anniversary of Taliban takeover, newly arrived Utah Afghan refugees protest regime