THE Three Afghan Women group who completed a seven-day hunger strike outside Westminster have urged their Scottish counterparts to raise their voices.

The trio, all working mothers, consumed only water in an effort to draw attention to the plight of Afghan women. They say they’ve been inundated by messages from women around the UK and beyond, with residents of Germany and Sweden amongst those sending support. While their hunger strike is over, they’re planning to keep campaigning and want others to take up the baton too.

And the three, who have asked not to be named for fear of reprisals by the Taliban and its followers, say they hope to inspire the growing number of Afghan women in Scotland to take up their countrywomen’s cause.

Hundreds of Afghan people have arrived in Scotland since the regime change triggered by the withdrawal of UK and US troops, with more to follow.

The National:

This week Midlothian council confirmed the first of five families to move there will arrive by the end of the month. Others are now settling in Aberdeenshire, while Moray Council is to welcome 20 people. Highland, Dundee, Perth and Kinross and Angus councils are also amongst those to confirm they’ll host refugees. The moves will significantly increase Scotland’s Afghan population, which stood at around 4000 before the Ministry of Defence hurriedly evacuated interpreters and their families, along with others rated especially vulnerable due to work carried out for UK authorities. And they increase the number of Afghans living outwith Glasgow, where most of the community resides.

“We want to inspire all Afghan women to stand up for human rights and for their country and to be the voice of those women nobody is hearing now,” said one of the protesters, who are all based in the London area. “Protest, send emails to your MPs and MSPs, raise your voice, never stay silent.”

The trio is urging the UK Government not to recognise the Taliban and to take steps to drive forwards an international effort to protect women and persecuted minority groups, including Afghan Sikhs.

They’re seeking pressure over education for girls, violence against Taliban opponents and investigations into reports of targeted killings and disappearances.

“Has the struggle of the suffragettes not taught us anything,” they ask in a statement to MPs. “Women should be offered the equal rights that the west claimed to be fighting for in Afghanistan. Democracy has withered away.”

The women acknowledge that many Afghans in the UK remain fearful about speaking out openly, but believe “this is the time for Afghan women to stand”.

“We are not superwomen,” one of the trio said. “We are no different than anyone else.”

In Glasgow, Khalida Bostani agrees. She runs a local Women’s Empowerment Group with other volunteers through the Glasgow Afghan United charity. Many of those involved took part in a recent anti-Taliban demonstration in the city’s George Square. “Afghan women face many barriers,” the mother-of-seven said, “but they are also resilient, talented, intelligent and powerful. They may not always know how to say something to make their voices heard, but they know what they want to say and right now they want to reject the Taliban, stand up for women and girls and assert themselves.

“We’re working with our members to help them in any way we can and will continue to do so. We support the human and democratic right to protest and will continue to do so and we call on the British Government and the international community to listen.”