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Standing for a cause: Is Reza Gul the reincarnation of Malalai of Maiwand?

By Ahmad Siyar Sirat

"Afghan women are like sleeping lions, when awakened, they can play a wonderful role in any social revolution," an enduring quote from Meena Keshwar Kamal, a political activist, feminist and the founder of  Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), who was assassinated back in 1987. She has been named as an Afghan heroine in the book 'Meena the Heroine of Afghanistan' for her utmost and unstoppable efforts she made in short years of her life before 1987.

As per her quote, Afghan women have always been active in every aspect of life including defending their rights. Orzala Ashraf Nemat, an Afghan activist, in her research 'Forgotten Heroes' writes about eight Afghan women who have been assassinated or killed by unknown armed men and insurgents due to different reasons or as a result of working in the lines of police, as a rights activist and as a journalist.  Her research indicates that the assassinated women had been nursing dreams to sincerely serve the nation through their profession under the umbrella of Islamic values and Afghan traditions.

Looking back to the bright history of Afghanistan and bravery of Afghan women, the most prominent story is of Malalai of Maiwand, the Afghan woman heroine and legend that joined the battle against the then British-India in second Anglo-Afghan war.

It is said that in Britain, none has heard of Malalai. But in Afghanistan she is a legend that her courage gives strength to women who fight crimes and brutality.  Malalai was a resident of Khig, a tiny village on the edge of the Maiwand battlefield. Her father was a shepherd. She joined her father and fiancé in attack on the British in July 27th 1880. Some say it was her wedding day. Eventually, there came a point in the battle where the Afghan army, despite their superior numbers, started to lose morale and the tide seemed to be turning in favor of the British. Seeing this, Malalai took off her veil and shouted out:

"Young love! If you do not fall in the battle of Maiwand,

By God, someone is saving you as a symbol of shame!"

This gave many of the Afghan fighters a new resolve and they redoubled their efforts. At that moment one of the leading flag-bearers fell from a British bullet, and Malalai went forward and held up the flag, singing a Landai, a form of poem in Pashto:

"With a drop of my sweetheart's blood,

Shed in defense of the Motherland,

Will I put a beauty spot on my forehead,

Such as would put to shame the rose in the garden,"

Same did a woman in western Farah province. Reza Gul's presence in a battle against the Taliban boosted the morale of policemen and helped them defeat the Taliban after seven hours of battle. At least 25 Taliban fighters were reportedly killed and 31 others wounded in the conflict.

Reza Gul is mother of a policeman who was beheaded by the Taliban in front of her eyes. This provoked her to lose her control and take up gun against militants.

"It was around 5am when my son's checkpost came under attack of the Taliban," Reza Gul, told TOLO News. "When the fighting intensified, I couldn't stop myself and picked up an AK-47, went to the check post and began shooting back," she added.

Women naturally are very soft-hearted and kind. Most of them even cannot hurt their enemy, but what Reza Gul did was because of the love she had for her son and for her homeland. It was not only Reza Gul who joined the momentous attack. Her daughter, daughter-in-law and her whole family were supported her in the battle. Some of them were shooting and her children were helping in preparing bullets.

"My young son who was a police officer was killed in front of my eyes," said Abdul Satar, Reza Gul's husband. "I pulled aside his dead body and started fighting to defend my soil to prove that this is the soil of Malalai, the legend. I was committed to give up my life, but not my son's checkpost."

It indicates that how Malalai of Maiwand reincarnates herself in different shapes even in the 21st century. Reza Gul's courage made buzz in media. Local officials praised her iron. But the central government turned a blind eye to this incident and had learned no lesson of it. Some believe it was a shame for the government that a woman fights against the Taliban and her efforts yield sweet fruits of defeating the Taliban, but here the government remains incapable of preventing suicide attacks and clearing all areas of the Taliban. According to reports, the Taliban are stationed at a distance of 35 miles from Kabul. They have district chiefs and a governor there and they hold courts and claim to capture Kabul one day.

Reza Gul and other people who have taken up guns against the Taliban and driven them out of their areas should be protected by the government. Her courage should result in some changes in government's policy against the militants. The Taliban—the very symbol of barbarism and intolerance will never come to the table of negotiations until they receive the use of power by the government. The incident in Farah should not be forgotten. Rather it should be made part of textbooks to teach Afghan children how Afghan mothers fought militants in the defense of this land, which is currently ours, but will be owned by our kids tomorrow. If we couldn’t give our children a prosperous, developed and peaceful Afghanistan, it should be a matter of shame for our current leaders and as well as the people.

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