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November 29, 2022

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: Women at risk

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‘I am a human being, like my fellow artists. I call on the world to take our hands and save us from this misery. If we are here for a while, we will perish. We will be killed. Today, our work, our identity and our rights as women have been taken away. Our lives are in danger. Afghanistan is no longer a place for artists to live.’

Imagine if your life changed instantly. 

Imagine if you were told the job you had done for 20 years, the career you had was over because the government believes women should not work – especially in the arts.

Imagine if you were the person supporting your family, and now there is no income, and because of the work you did you are in fear for your life.

Imagine if you were in hiding.

Imagine you are no longer safe in your own home, or anywhere in your country. Where do you go?

This is the situation for Afghan women who had a career in the arts before the Taliban resumed power in August last year. They are at extreme risk, both personally and economically. I spoke with an actor who was recognised as a high profile cinema star in Afghanistan’s blossoming film and TV industry. An industry that was supported by the likes of Rupert Murdoch, in a country whose government was supported and backed by Western democracies like ours. We told them they were safe. But we set them up. We propped up a government that did not have the clout to manage the re-emergence of a totalitarian regime like the Taliban. And then we left.

While it wasn’t appropriate for us to be there, and it’s certainly not appropriate for us to return, there is so much more we could be doing to negotiate better conditions for the people living in Afghanistan. Especially the women.

I have changed the name of this woman, because speaking to me makes her unsafe. I am going to call her Nasrin.

‘I am a film artist. I struggled and became successful in the cinema sector of Afghanistan, despite family and community pressure. I have been working in this field for 11 years. Before the arrival of the Taliban, I had a very normal life. I worked on short films, serials and different songs. I was going to university to study at nighttime. I am the only member of the family who supported my family financially. And we had a comfortable and good life.’

I reflect on my life of liberty. I look at the lives of my daughters; I cannot imagine what it must be like to wake up and be unsafe, unvalued and unrecognised. To be erased.

‘The Taliban oppose the work of women in the arts sector’ says Nasrin. ‘With their arrival, many women became unemployed, miserable. And artists were sacrificed – their right to work was lost. Some of them were even tortured for being artists. That’s why our lives are in danger.’

‘Our lives, from the moment the Taliban come to power, have changed. A week after the Taliban took power, stones were thrown at our house at night and the doorbell rang. When we saw no one outside we became fearful.’

Nasrin is a young woman. She was born into a Western backed Afghanistan that offered her freedom. It offered to uphold the rights of women. It offered her education and economic independence. What Nasrin is now experiencing is unbelievable to her.

‘I had only seen these situations in movies. I never thought I would encounter such things in real life. It was all scary for me. Because of Taliban our lives are in danger. The people of our region are forced to leave their homes and the area where we lived for six years.’

Nasrin – a young, successful woman with so much ahead for her, is now in hiding and in fear for her life.

‘My family and I are in a secret place of a friend’s house, and unfortunately I am not safe, and I am still suffering from severe economic problems, and these days it is very difficult for me.’

We cannot let this happen. Our local refugee groups – including Ballina Region for Refugees, Federal Loves Refugees and Ocean Shores Refugees, are working on humanitarian visas and fundraising to help people like Nasrin and her family survive the bitter Afghanistan winter, and beyond. 

There are those who are calling for artists like Nasrin to be recognised as a persecuted ethnic group. 

‘I am a human being, like my fellow artists. I call on the world to take our hands and save us from this misery. If we are here for a while, we will perish. We will be killed. Today, our work, our identity and our rights as women have been taken away from us. And our lives are in danger. Afghanistan is no longer a place for artists to live.’

Our local refugee groups have raised enough for ten families to survive. They are aiming for funds for another 40. Can you help? It’s only $200 US to buy them time. Time to work out how they are going to manage in the months that lie ahead.

It’s the least we can do. Please donate what you can through www.br4r.org.au/donate-2/

Refugee advocacy groups are also seeking letters of support from filmmakers, musicians, and local artists of note. Please email [email protected]


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7 COMMENTS

    • Smacks of your mate Scotty’s observation that elsewhere the women gathered outside parliament would face bullets. What on earth are you implying?

      Besides, I think Grace has her hands full here.

  1. So your saying they were safe and free when white men were in charge, and now you have to move them to where white men are in charge to make them safe and free again.

    Message received Mandy

  2. Thank you Mandy

    The Feminine energies of creativity, empathy, compassionate strength, connection to earth, intuition, emotional intelligence and deep nuturing love are essential for this planet and human welbeing.

    Men who work to suppress Women and the expression of these feminine qualities
    ( Taliban or not ) are stuck in darkness.

    These men are weak and deeply fearful.
    They are fearful of Womens inherent power , as many men before them.

    What a tragedy….

  3. GREat comments & heartfelt sentiments Mandy , as usual . However, I do disagree on one point, I DO think that western troops needed to go to Afghanistan & that’s what many of the Afghani people asked for. Don’t think Iraq (just for the record) should ever have been invaded BUT this issue is very different. Obviously it would have been MUCH worse for women & girls if the western alliance wasn’t there, just ask them. It was such a complex issue & no one thought that the ‘well trained’ Afghani armed forces would have dropped weapons & ran ?????? Also I don’t think western troops should have left so abruptly after knowing for 5 mths (Thanks Trump you maniac) that this deadline for an Exit was fast arriving. THOSE SCENES AT THE AIRPORT I WILL NEVER ERASE FROM MY BRAIN.Much better planning & exit visas etc should have been arranged within that 5 mth period. As for our useless Govt I have read that the inadequate ‘gift’ of only 3000 visas still has not actually eventuated ??? This is totally unacceptable and we SHOULD have done much more. Afghani’s here haven’t even been granted permanent citizenship ? OMG we go to war because the Taliban (& other lunatics) are so violent & brutal , then we say Afghani ‘s can’t remain here on permanent settlement v isa’s because MAYBE they could go back ? NOW THIS IS INSANE & this Govt must be voted out.

    • Thanks Trump you Maniac ?
      Lindy just for the record it was not
      The Trump administration who
      Lead the withdrawal of troops from
      Afghanistan infact it was that incompetent
      President Joe Biden who has been by far
      The worst President in American history.
      and the Vice President according to polls.
      She has not even been down to the US border where over 2 million refugees
      Have just walked into America what
      a Disgrace, the people smugglers
      Are making millions, a humanitarian
      Disaster under the watch of the Biden &
      Harris administration.. incidentally if
      Labor & the greens win the election
      The greens do not want Borders at all .
      The last time in power 1200 men and women and children had lost there lives at sea trying to get to Australia.. the people Smugglers
      Will be preparing..good luck Australia..

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