Afghan Women Embracing Financial Freedom with Cryptocurrency

With most women not permitted to possess bank accounts in Afghanistan, cryptocurrency has become a critical lifeline for women fleeing the country.

A media report said:

The fall of Kabul has seen more than 600,000 people fleeing the Taliban regime and, without access to bank accounts, Afghan women were immediately put in a precarious position in their ability to help evacuate their families and contribute financially.

However, the work that Roya and Forough Mahboob achieved through the creation of the Digital Citizen Fund – a non-profit aiming to help girls and women in developing countries gain access to education and technology – has given Afghan women financial freedom.

The sisters taught thousands of young women computer basics through the non-profit scheme and, when they first heard about Bitcoin, not only did they teach the girls how to use it but they paid their staff in Bitcoin.

A third of the 16,000 girls who learned with Roya and Forough went on to set up crypto wallets and receive funds.

Despite the work they have done that has allowed Afghan women to flee the country and set themselves up in new surroundings, Roya Mahboob questions why she did not teach more about cryptocurrency.

“I am thinking now – why did not we teach about crypto more aggressively, so more Afghans could have crypto wallets and be able to access their money now,” she said.

“The traffickers and kidnappers will always find a way to abuse a system. But the power of crypto is bigger – especially for women and those who don’t have bank accounts, it is very beneficial and so empowering.”

Mahboob’s work in increasing the use of cryptocurrency among Afghan women came in the midst of Afghanistan being urged to establish a new cryptocurrency to reduce reliance on the US dollar.

Nothing Can Stop Us

Afghan Robotics Team
The award-winning Afghan Girls’ Robotics Team

An earlier report by Gabe Joselow and Yuliya Talmazan from Doha, Qatar said:

They are known as Afghanistan’s “robot girls.”

The 10 high schoolers from Afghanistan’s western city of Herat are members of a team that has made international headlines for several years for its work developing and building robots.

The team became a symbol of progress in modern Afghanistan, taking part in competitions around the world.

But with the Taliban now in power in Afghanistan, the girls have fled to Qatar in fear of the militant group’s rule.

The previous Taliban regime’s strict and austere interpretation of Islam largely erased women from public life, barring them from attending school or working outside the home.

Although the Taliban promised to respect women’s rights as they took control of Afghanistan last week, many were skeptical. Girls like Somaya Faruqi, the captain of the robotics team, and nine more members of her team joined the thousands who have decided to flee the country.

They were flown out of Kabul to Doha with the assistance of the Qatari government in August.

Sitting in a housing compound where they now reside, Somaya Faruqi, 18, told NBC News’ chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel that she fled to Qatar for the chance to continue her education and robotics work.

“Nothing can stop us. We continue our way,” Somaya said.

Somaya said fixing things makes her feel free and powerful and taking part in international competitions has given her an opportunity to show the world what Afghan girls can do, and that Afghanistan is not just about never-ending wars.

“If there was an opportunity for every young boy or girl in Afghanistan, they could do anything they want,” she said.

Even as refugees, the team was planning to enter a robotics competition. The team was working on a 5-foot-tall robot that uses ultraviolet light to disinfect surfaces for remotely sweeping rooms and destroy viruses.

We are Going to Go Back to Afghanistan Again

Love of technology started early for Ayda Haydarpour, 17, a member of Afghanistan’s all-female robotics team who has been flown to safety hopes the world will not forget her country.

Ayda, the chief programmer on the team, got a Super Mario video game when she was 7, and decided right away she wanted to know how it worked. She said she hopes to become a software engineer and work for herself someday.

“I would really love to build my company and be the boss of that company,” she said.

It is for the sake of those dreams that Ayda said she had to flee to Qatar. But the pain of leaving her homeland is still raw.

“We are going to go back to Afghanistan again,” Ayda said, vowing to return — however long it takes.

“We will go to Afghanistan again, and build Afghanistan and just change the future of Afghanistan,” she added.

The girls came to Doha without their families. Some of their teachers, mentors and even team members are still in Afghanistan. Team member Somaya broke down in tears when asked how difficult it was for her to leave her loved ones behind.

“We left Afghanistan for our education and one day we will come back and we will serve our people and our country,” Somaya said.

Do Not Abandon Afghanistan

An earlier Reuters report from Doha said:

A number of Ayda’s team members are now in the Qatari capital Doha. Other team members went to Mexico, while some remained in Afghanistan.

“I want to say never leave the people of Afghanistan alone. Support them and help them. They have lot of dreams. They have lot of goals,” Ayda, the aspiring software engineer told Reuters.

Thousands of Afghans have fled their country fearing reprisals and repression by the Islamist militants, especially against women.

“We left everything in Afghanistan. We had dreams. We left our families. We left our friends. We left all of our relatives and without saying any goodbye to them,” Ayda said.

The robotics team members, some as young as 14, were born in the years after the Taliban’s 1996-2001 rule when women were banned from studying or working.

Ayda said her team, which captivated global media attention in 2017 when they took part in the International Robotics Olympics in the U.S., proved the potential that Afghan girls have.

“You should believe that and help support the people who are still in Afghanistan,” she said.

Although their future is now uncertain, the robotics team will continue their education outside Afghanistan and is preparing for an online robotics competition next month.

Afghan Girls’ Robotics Team Continues Education and Training in Qatar

Another report said:

Members of Afghanistan’s all-female robotics team, or “The Afghan Dreamers” are continuing their education and enriching their robotics skills through scholarships funded by Qatar Foundation and Qatar Fund for Development.

“It was very scary for everybody and we had such a big responsibility to make sure they’re secure,” Roya Mahboob, CEO of the Digital Citizen Fund, which is the parent organization of the robotics team said of the exit. DCF coordinated with Qatar’s government to obtain visas prior to the team’s departure.

Team member Ayda said, “Nothing can be worse than leaving your loved ones behind. We were sad and cried and missed our families, but we are lucky to be safe and be able to continue our high school education at the Qatar Foundation’s Education City.” Ayda and her teammates began attending their new classes this week.

The faces and names of these nine have more prominently been featured in the media, putting them at greater risk of danger had they remained in Afghanistan, Mahboob said.

The Dreamers began with a few girls in 2017 in Herat, and has grown to 50 members, boasts awards from global competitions and made it on Forbes 30 under 30 Asia in 2021. They won an award at Europe’s largest robotics festival in 2017 for building a robot that uses solar energy for small-scale farms, and in 2020 with guidance from MIT constructed ventilators for Covid-19 patients at Afghanistan hospitals.

Afghan Women in Workforce

The polarity between Taliban views and the political climate that these members are accustomed to is significant, and the new shift is predicted to further disrupt women’s opportunities. Under western control, in addition to other freedoms, 1.6 million more women entered the workforce in Afghanistan over the past 20 years.

The girls have resettled at Education City—a campus with multiple academic institutions—and will have opportunities to strengthen their skills at Qatar Foundation member universities including Carnegie Mellon and Texas A&M University, according to a September 7 press release. For Ayda, focusing on the next competition is her priority, and attending “university in a field that we love and is top in technology,” is the next objective.

Taliban aside, chaos in the country could spur other factions that do not favor female leaders to leverage the shift to ultra-conservatism and marginalize these girls, she explained. The escape was important because, “you might have a lot of people who support you, but you might also have a small group of people who don’t like what you’re doing and it might give them the opportunity to harm you.”

Learn From These Girls

Shortly before Taliban resurgence and the republic’s collapse, the administration aimed to continue progress and draft new initiatives—one of them to increase women’s presence in technology with the robotics team in mind, according to former Deputy Minister of Women Affairs Hosna Jalil.

Jalil, who is also the former Deputy Minister of Interior Affairs in Afghanistan and the first woman to hold a senior position in that ministry, extols the robotics team and views them as a paragon of progress and success. “What I have learned from these girls is, they would not give up,” she said. “They start something and they do not give up; they make it happen.” “I am absolutely proud of these teenagers — their dedication, their passion, their determination — it keeps inspiring me.”

In 2019 Afghan government approved a project to develop a larger institute for the Dreamers at Kabul University that would span six acres at $2 million per acre, according to Mahboob. Completion of the project now remains unseen. Mahboob sees her dedication toward young women not as a charitable activity, but as work that she should be doing for her country. “They are the young generation that is going to build Afghanistan 2.0.” Market size for robotics is expected to reach $499 billion by 2025, according to a 2021 Technology and Innovation Report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development, but enriching the girls’ lives is on Mahboob’s mind. Creating space for girls in tech has helped build their confidence and garner more respect in society, Mahboob said. “It changed their family members’ minds when the girls started to do mechanical stuff at the home — repair radio and trying to fix things — and their brothers or their fathers were so surprised, they like it.”

Ayda is hopeful for the future and stands by her rights.  “If you are a male or female, still you are human and all the humans have their own rights,” she said. She asks that these rights, specifically the right to an education, be observed. “All the girls and women in Afghanistan deserve that.”

Dozens of other girls from the robotics club have remained in Afghanistan, choosing to continue their education there, if and when possible. Mahboob ensures that the girls will not be abandoned. “We will never give up on them.”

Can the Taliban Suppress the Potent IS Threat?

An AP explainer by Samya Kullab said on October 12, 2021:

With the Taliban in power in Afghanistan, there is a new enemy ascending.

The Islamic State (IS) group threatens to usher in another violent phase. Except this time the former insurgents, the Taliban, play the role of the state, now that the U.S. troops and their allied Afghan government are gone.

The Taliban promised the U.S. to keep the extremist group in check during successive rounds of peace talks. Under the 2020 U.S.-Taliban accord, the Taliban guaranteed that Afghanistan would not become a haven for terrorist groups threatening the U.S. or its allies.

But it is unclear if they can keep their pledge, with a sudden uptick in IS attacks since the Taliban takeover on August 15.

A deadly bombing Friday in the northern province of Kunduz killed at least 100 worshippers inside a mosque frequented by Shiites. Other deadly IS attacks have struck in the capital, Kabul, and provinces to the east and north, while smaller-scale attacks target Taliban fighters almost daily.

“Historically, the majority of IS attacks have targeted the state … Now that the U.S. and the international presence is mostly gone, they need to go after the state — and the state is the Taliban,” said Andrew Mines, research fellow at Program on Extremism at George Washington University.

The explainer said:

Both the Taliban and IS advocate rule by their radical interpretations of Islamic law. But there are key ideological differences that fuel their hatred of each other.

The Taliban say they are creating an Islamic state in Afghanistan, within the borders of that country.

IS says it is THE Islamic State, a global caliphate that it insists all Muslims must support. It is contemptuous of the Taliban’s nationalist goals and does not recognize them as a pure Islamic movement. For similar reasons, IS has long been a staunch enemy of al-Qaida.

Both the Taliban and IS advocate particularly harsh versions of Islamic Shariah law and have used tactics like suicide bombers. But when it ruled territory in Syria and Iraq, IS was even more brutal and carried out more horrific punishments than the Taliban did.

IS emerged in Afghanistan in 2015 with the name Islamic State in Khorasan Province, at a time when the group was at its peak, controlling much of Iraq and Syria. It drew members from Afghan and Pakistani militants, including a wave of Taliban defectors.

The group initially found support among Afghanistan’s small Salafist movement in eastern Kunar and Nangarhar provinces. The Salafis had largely been marginalized by the Taliban, and by connecting with the rising IS, the Salafist movement found a means to establish military strength.

But IS’s brutal ways have since led some Salafi clerics to voice opposition. In the years after its emergence, IS was badly hurt by military setbacks at the hands of the Taliban and by U.S. airstrikes, before surging again the past year.

The Taliban downplay IS’s capabilities and dismiss them as a fringe group with no mainstream appeal.

“They have no roots here,” influential Taliban figure Sheikh Abdul-Hameed Hamasi told The Associated Press.

It said:

Still, the potency of the IS threat is undeniable.

Two deadly bombings have hit Kabul, including one outside the airport at the height of evacuations before the U.S. exit that killed 169 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members. Smaller scale attacks are also on the rise.

“The intensity and breadth of attacks … show the capacity and level of national reach which has caught the Taliban by surprise,” said Ibraheem Bahiss, a consultant with the International Crisis Group. IS “is no short-term threat.”

It could be a while until IS has the capability to hold territory again. Its immediate aim is to destabilize the Taliban and shatter the group’s image as a guardian of security.

For now, its strategy is slow and methodical. It is reaching out to tribes and other groups to recruit from their ranks while stamping out dissent among moderate Salafis and carrying out jailbreaks, assassinations, and attacks on Taliban personnel.

“Package all of that together, that is an entire method of insurgency the Taliban is not equipped to handle,” said Mines.

Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal, produced by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies think tank, offered a different view, saying he believes the Taliban can uproot IS on their own, even without the backup of U.S. airstrikes that nearly eliminated IS.

Roggio said the Taliban have shown themselves capable of rooting out some IS cells, using their vast local intelligence-gathering networks. He noted that IS — unlike the Taliban during their insurgency — don’t have access to safe havens in Pakistan and Iran.

The Taliban have rejected cooperating with the U.S. against IS, ahead of the two sides’ direct talks last weekend.

IS’s future trajectory in Afghanistan will depend largely on its ability to recruit more members and win over large segments of the population.

Since their inception, they have been poaching Taliban members. In 2015, a former Taliban commander, Abdul Rauf Khadim, was appointed deputy of IS in Afghanistan and reportedly offered financial incentives to other Taliban fighters to join the group.

In 2020, when IS re-emerged in Afghanistan, it was under a new leader drawn from the Haqqani Network, currently a faction of the Taliban.

Hard-line members of the Taliban could join IS as the Taliban leadership, now in power, has to make compromises whether at home or abroad. The Taliban have promised a more inclusive government, though the temporary administration they set up is entirely made up of Taliban members.

The more the Taliban cooperate with international states, the more they run against the image of the mujahedeen resistance fighter. “That is a key identity the Taliban will lose,” Mines said.

It added:

As the Taliban shift from insurgency to governance, one key test will be whether they act to protect minority groups that their fighters once tyrannized, such as the Shiite Hazaras.

The Hazaras have endured multiple campaigns of persecution and displacement throughout Afghanistan’s history. When the Taliban were first in power in the 1990s, they carried out massacres against the community, in some cases in retaliation for massacres of ethnic Pashtuns.

IS has targeted Hazaras because most are Shiite Muslims, killing hundreds in brutal attacks targeting their places of worship in what it calls a war on heretics.

Friday’s mosque attack in Kunduz was an opportunity for the Taliban to project a new image as a state power. The Taliban acted swiftly: Special forces swept the scene, investigations were launched, the provincial police chief made lofty promises to protect minority “brothers.”

Support Countercurrents

Countercurrents is answerable only to our readers. Support honest journalism because we have no PLANET B.
Become a Patron at Patreon

Join Our Newsletter


Join our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Get CounterCurrents updates on our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Related Posts

Join Our Newsletter

Annual Subscription

Join Countercurrents Annual Fund Raising Campaign and help us

Latest News