Maryam Durani, rights activist has discovered a new outlet for her decades of advocacy – a unique fitness gym for women, in Afghanistan’s southern area of Kandahar.
Durani, 36, is a passionate campaigner for women’s rights in the conservative center where the Islamist Taliban militant group have influential power and take a conservative stand on the position of women, who often wear the burqa in public.
Durani operates a radio station for women, has worked on the provincial council, and was honored with the International Women of Courage Award by Michelle Obama for in 2012. Last year, Durani shifted back to open a female-only gym, that attracts around 50 women attend each day.
“The response of the ladies was very positive as they all wanted it,” she said, soon after working out with a group of clients. “What disturbed her was the response of the men…who behaved negatively to the club and even insulted her because they believed the club was in disagreement to Sharia.”
With the number of withdrawal expressed between the United States and the Taliban, who have battled a bloody war for 19 years, many women in Afghanistan worry the militant group may use its influence through regular political channels.
When the Taliban controlled the country between 1996 and 2001, they banned education for females and prohibited women from leaving the house without a male relation or mahram.
The group says it has developed, but many women remain doubtful.