Afghan Women Run Digital Magazine with Critical Reporting

In the December 2023 quarterly report released by UNAMA on Monday, it was highlighted that the Taliban has enforced stringent measures against unmarried women or those unaccompanied by a male guardian in Afghanistan. Accessing work, travel, and healthcare has become more arduous for women in the region. The report reveals an instance where a woman was advised by the “Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue” to marry in order to retain her job at a healthcare facility, asserting that it was inappropriate for an unmarried woman to work.

These instances, as elucidated by journalist Zahra Nader, founder of Zan Times, indicate the challenges faced by women under the Taliban regime. Nader, currently residing in Canada, emphasizes her responsibility to support Afghan women and girls through her online magazine, which addresses issues such as LGBTQ rights, human rights, domestic violence, and child marriage. Despite the risks involved, Afghan women journalists contribute to Zan Times both within and outside the country, reporting in Farsi and English.

The Taliban’s rule, established in August 2021, resulted in the exclusion of women from various aspects of public life, including education beyond the sixth grade and the closure of beauty salons. A May 2022 decree mandated women to wear a full-body burqa, with severe consequences for those who defy this directive.

Critical reporting and dissenting viewpoints are perilous, necessitating extreme caution among local journalists who write under pseudonyms and coordinate their movements with colleagues abroad. Zahra Nader, who initially funded the magazine with her savings, now relies on scholarships, grants, and donations to continue advocating for critical thinking and enlightenment, primarily targeting women in Afghanistan.

In seeking international support, Nader urges countries with a history of involvement in Afghanistan and those advocating for a feminist foreign policy to go beyond speeches and condemnations. She calls for tangible actions, including sanctions on the Taliban, restricting their travel until they alter their misogynistic policies and permit women to actively participate in public life once again.

The Taliban's rule, established in August 2021, resulted in the exclusion of women from various aspects of public life, including education beyond the sixth grade and the closure of beauty salons. A May 2022 decree mandated women to wear a full-body burqa, with severe consequences for those who defy this directive.