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Afghan Women Activists Fear Return Of Taliban-Era Repressions

Khalida Khorsand, a 35-year-old rights activist from the western Afghan city of Herat, is skeptical about Taliban claims that it has dispensed with its strict rules against girls' education and women working. The militant Islamic group made the declaration in the midst of recent peace talks with U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad aimed at bringing an end to the long U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. But Khorsand still remembers the notorious repressions under Taliban rule as a teenager in the western city of Herat when she risked the death penalty to study literature in a class disguised as a women's sewing group. "After nearly 18 years without the Taliban in power, we now see that the Taliban are coming back in Afghanistan and there haven't been big changes for women's lives -- especially in rural areas," says Khorsand, who has dedicated much of her life since 2001 to advancing women's rights in western Afghanistan. Even without the Taliban in power in Herat, Khorsand says, many hard-fought gains for women since the collapse of the Taliban regime already are under threat.....................

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