“We must stand”: Utah community raise their voices for women in Afghanistan

Jan 15, 2023, 11:07 AM | Updated: 12:03 pm
An Afghan refugee speaks about the Taliban's actions against women in Afghanistan during a demonstr...
An Afghan refugee speaks about the Taliban's actions against women in Afghanistan during a demonstration at Washington Square Park in Salt Lake City on Jan. 14. (Cassidy Wixom, KSL.com)
(Cassidy Wixom, KSL.com)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns and Afghan refugees gathered at Washington Square Park Saturday afternoon to show solidarity and support for women’s rights in Afghanistan.

Around 80 people held signs, listened to speeches and raised their voices, cheering “let girls learn,” “Taliban are terrorists” and “women’s rights are human rights.”

“Today the people of Afghanistan are gathering here in Utah, downtown, because their sisters are women who are deprived of basic rights,” Utah Afghan refugee Crystal Bayat said. “We want to be the voice of those women, those girls who cannot raise their voice inside of Afghanistan.”

Bayat was in Afghanistan when the Taliban took over. She tried to stand up against the Taliban but eventually had to flee to Utah to escape death threats.

She founded the Crystal Bayat Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting Afghan women. The foundation hosted the demonstration to raise awareness for victims of the oppressive Taliban regime which has excluded women and girls from education, employment and participation in socio-political life since the Taliban took over Aug. 15, 2021, a news release said.

Afghanistan has seen several protests in recent months, but many demonstrators have been abducted, beaten and threatened in response, the news release said. Bayat said she gets messages from friends and loved ones in Afghanistan about people going missing and being tortured for standing up for women’s rights.

“They don’t need anything more than their basic rights. They want their freedom,” Bayat said. “Thank you to the people of Utah who are supporting me, the loving community that is allowing me to stand on my feet.”

The Utah rally coincided with a global demonstration by United 4 Afghan Women, founded by Germany-based blogger and activist Nesam Halim.

“We need to speak up and stand up for women in Afghanistan, for women in Iran and for the people of Ukraine. For everyone who is fighting and standing for democracy and freedom, it is now the time to support them,” Bayat said.

Bayat said it is a global responsibility to support the women and girls in Afghanistan and to help stop gender apartheid.

“We must stand for the right of women and girls to receive an education. We must stand against genocide and call for action that mitigates the current humanitarian crisis. The global community must stand together and sanction the Taliban to hold them accountable for their horrific crimes,” Bayat said.

Mehria Fazel lives in Salt Lake and is from Afghanistan. She worked with the U.S. Embassy for several years and shared a few thoughts during the demonstration.

“Educate the girls, educate the world. That’s the most important thing,” Fazel said. “Please stand with Afghan women and girls.”

Hamza Yaqoobi is a member of the foundation who asked the attendees “What kind of savage takes away every right under the sun?” before detailing all the things women cannot do in Afghanistan anymore, including leaving home without a male guardian, going to school, going to work, going to the park or the grocery store.

“It is great to see our brothers here to stand for women in Afghanistan and we hope this activism can continue on,” Yaqoobi said, referencing the many males in attendance. “We hope the world sees that if you let the Taliban be, they will continue to put women under more restrictions and more brutality. We hope everyone can speak up for them.”

American Fork resident Nicole Wells tearfully shared some thoughts during the demonstration about how Americans need to stand with people who do not have the same freedoms.

“As Americans — and as people of the world — we need to recognize the people of Afghanistan. We need to remember them, we need to remember their women and what they are suffering,” Wells said. “We need to unite for Afghanistan.”

The Crystal Bayat Foundation outlined five demands for the international community, particularly the U.S. and European Commission, to help women and girls in Afghanistan.

First, lifting restrictions on women and girls should be the center of all talks with the Taliban to ensure women can exercise their right to education, movement, work, self-determination and security. This point of demand also asks for the immediate opening of secondary schools, high schools, and universities to women.

The second demand asks for the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for gender-based persecution in Afghanistan in both international and extraterritorial jurisdictions. The third demand is a call for monitoring of humanitarian aid and ensuring the aid reaches those in need.

The fourth demand asks for the diplomatic headquarters of the Taliban in Doha to be closed in order to address “the ongoing injustices and oppressive policies towards women and the promotion of extremist ideology that the regime has continued to perpetuate.”

The last demand calls for the international community to not recognize the Taliban and to put in place severe sanctions until the schools and universities are accessible to all people, regardless of gender.

“It is time right now for the international community, for the people around the world to take action against the Taliban. They are terrorists and they are not going to change their nature,” Bayat said. “If we believe in democracy, if we believe in freedom, here is the time to take action.”

Ibrahim Mujadedi is from Afghanistan but has lived in Utah for more than 10 years. He heard about the event through the Afghan community and came to support.

“The whole situation in Afghanistan is really sad,” Mujadedi said, referencing lack of women’s education, massive amounts of poverty and a big challenge of security. “Everyone making these protests are hoping to draw the United Nations and the Unites States’ attention to see if they can get help with the situation.”

Bayat said although she thinks more people need to come together and take action, seeing the community today gives her hope.

“When I started I was alone. But when I see this support of people, I feel hopeful for the future, for the cause I am fighting for,” Bayat said.


We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

Race, Religion + Social Justice

Gov. Spencer Cox covered a broad range of issues Thursday night at the State of the State Address. ...
Chandler Holt

Governor Spencer Cox signs transgender bill, releases statement

Gov. Spencer Cox released a statement on the transgender bill, that would ban transgender-related surgeries and puberty blockers for minors, on Saturday.
1 day ago
Rabbi Avremi Zippel talks to the crowd during halftime of a Jazz-Portland Trail Blazers game at Viv...
Mark Jones

International Holocaust Remembrance Day: Area rabbi shares his thoughts

Rabbi Avremi Zippel joined Inside Sources Friday to discuss International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
2 days ago
The Utah House has advanced the bill that bans transgender-related surgeries on minors and pauses t...
Lindsay Aerts

Utah Senate passes transgender-related surgery ban for minors

The Utah House has advanced the bill that bans transgender-related surgeries on minors and pauses the treatment of hormone blockers.
3 days ago
Pope Francis criticized laws that criminalize homosexuality as "unjust," saying God loves all his c...
NICOLE WINFIELD Associated Press

The AP Interview: Pope Francis says homosexuality not a crime

Pope Francis' comments are the first by a pope about laws criminalizing homosexuality. But they are consistent with his approach to the LGBTQ community.
4 days ago
The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Monday plans to r...
Mark Jones

Church announces Anchorage Alaska Temple reconstruction

Reconstruction of the Anchorage Alaska Temple was announced Monday by the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
6 days ago
2021 Sundance Film Festival...
Heather Kelly

The Sundance Film Festival isn’t just about movies

The Sundance Film Festival has many more events than films and the chance to see celebrities 'up close and personal' and most of them are free.  
6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
“We must stand”: Utah community raise their voices for women in Afghanistan