Rebuilding Organizational Identity in Women's Protests

Photo Credit: AFP

By Abdul Saboor Sitez

In the first steps of implementing the Taliban regime, women emerged as members of numerous movements with different slogans, expressing their strong opposition to it. Despite their recent emergence, these movements were able to create a political challenge for the Taliban regime. In the early stages of formation, women’s movements created hopes for a new wave of organized women’s struggles amid the current developments in Afghanistan.

All in all, the violent and brutal opposition of the Taliban against the activities and members of these movements on the one hand and the internal conflicts between the members and organizers on the other hand have led to the lack of activism and reluctance of the activists within the framework of the mentioned movements. Mrs. Shahgol Rezaei, a former member of parliament, in a program on the occasion of March 8th, about the pathology of women’s condition and the importance of the national women’s movement, one of the most fundamental factors of women’s failure to internalize women’s values in the past twenty years is the lack of formation and the absence of the idea of creating a national organization or movement from Women themselves know. According to him, the early dominance of Talabani’s coercion in the context of women’s values and rights is also rooted in the absence of such a reliance on women’s foundation in the past of women’s political and social activism.

Finally, the specific topic of discussion in this note is the newly founded movements of protesting women. In the author's opinion, the reflection and attitude about the activities and functions of these movements for two and a half years disappointingly informs of deviation and reluctance towards the continuation of activism under the identity of these movements. In this note, the factors of the downward course and internal pathology of protesting women’s movements have been discussed on the other hand, relying on the theories of social thinkers and the sociology of movements, the manner, necessity, and importance of formulating the vision and rebuilding the organizational identity of movements have been investigated and emphasized.

The undeniable necessity of thinking about organized action in the framework of women’s protest movements is one of the interesting points to discuss because society, especially the women of Afghanistan, still has a long way to go to overcome the current abnormal situation.

Therefore, the expectation created at the same time as the formation of these movements shows that the women of Afghanistan have a heavy responsibility towards themselves and their fellows, which they must act and think about in full responsibility.

The theoretical basis of social movements

Sociological thinkers have termed “social movements” as a modern phenomenon, the origin of which goes back to the end of the first half of the 19th century. According to these thinkers, social movements have a fundamental effect on social transformations that are guided by collective action. From the words of social thinkers such as Max Weber, Armand Moss, and Guiroche, it can be inferred that social movement is “the purposeful participation of a group of people in society to plan and pursue a series of goals in a coordinated manner.”

These thinkers follow their special theoretical methods in the details and content of their explanations about the movements.

American sociologist Armand Moss has divided the stages of social movements into five categories. According to him, preliminary formation, fusion, transition to institutionalization, branching and collapse are movement courses of social movements. Also, in terms of nature, social movements are revolutionary/subversive, Retrospective or oriented towards the past and reformists are categorized.

Although the members of protesting women’s movements in their performance have sometimes indicated disapproval of the Taliban’s rule and domination, but in general, it has emerged that their basic orientation and the content of their public slogans have been mixed with some reformism. For example, the most basic motto of the movement is “Bread, Work, Freedom,” which has found a place in the protestors' slogans. Still, in this slogan, there is no opposing goal against the definite dominance of the Taliban regime. The slogan of bread, work and freedom has been raised as a final demand that the Taliban regime must comply with providing its grounds.

Why do women’s movements not have significant stability?

According to this author, a series of factors and reasons should be considered in the issue of women’s movements.

As it can be seen, these movements cannot be recognized and expressed by either the participants or the audience. What the movements are stuck with can be called a “denial of identity”, which can be explained in the following forms and propositions.

First, the familiar and well-established term “women protester,” which has been used by the media and activists since its inception, carries this deviation whether it introduces a person or a group of people in the chemical sense of the word in the mechanical context of solidarity. This form of identification that highlights women regardless of the organizational structure and apart from the institutional requirement causes the concept of the movement to be discarded as an institution representing the collective identity of the activists in the collective psyche. To give In the framework of the formation of such an environment, the psychological attraction of the activist is suddenly emptied of the motivation of restriction in the framework of the movement, and without caring about the validation and strengthening of the identity of the institution, he puts himself in the position of an activist, an activist women and an activist human being it is introduced and uses the credibility of the institution to strengthen the aspects of its activist and social identity.

Some Persian-language media and media created in exile that have been created in recent years, according to their publishing policies, have a prominent role in shaping the existing deviation to make room and enter the field of countless audiences. These media, relying on their programming taste, which does not shy away from resorting to the abuse of everything, applied such an approach in dealing with women’s movements. Although these media already know that the women’s movement has been expressed in the form of movements and organizational structures, they have brought these women individually to the interview of their news program as far as they could, and each is only one person apart from their organizational relationship. Protesters have been introduced.

Such an occurrence has played a significant role in creating intra-organizational differences in women’s protest movements, leading to the lack of credibility and stability that these movements need and perhaps should have.


The pathology of women’s protest movements can be analyzed in at least two areas. The first includes vision and strategy, and the second comprises members and organizations. In explaining his social thoughts, Emile Durkheim, a sociologist, talks about two types of solidarity. According to Durkheim, there are two forms or structures of solidarity in which humans interact. Mechanical correlation and organic correlation are types of correlation discussed by Durkheim. Based on his explanation of the types of correlation, for the kind of mechanical correlation, the type of collective action is the same and all are related based on the appearance of similarities. This means that there is no division of labour in this form of collaboration, and the types of tasks are not clear. Everyone is doing the same thing at the same time. In the form of organic solidarity, humans are related to each other based on their differences. There is a division of work; everyone depends on and needs each other based on their expertise and abilities; like the components of a device that perform different tasks, but at the same time, they are all connected and complementary in a device.

Referring to Durkheim’s opinion about the types of solidarity, we want to apply this formula in the fields of social movements.

The summation and type of hierarchical functioning of women’s protest movements have a maximum similarity to the kind of mechanical solidarity. This means that there was no division of labour and some internal organization in them; elites, pioneers, spokespeople, and internal working groups were not clear, and the form of activities was primitive and unorganized. This kind of thing has been able to empty the movement from the inside as a first-class vacuum and, according to Asif Bayat, rule a kind of “immobility” in the inner atmosphere of the movements.

Lack of clear strategy

Women activists have raised many demands during their struggles and protests. If we want to address the difference in the demands of the protesting movements from one street protest to another, we must analyze it individually. Therefore, what should be acknowledged is the absence of a specific strategy proposed by women. From the beginning to the end, women's protest movements have not determined whether they accept Talib and his regime. Does the demand for “bread, work, freedom” constitute the demand of protesting women or is it looking for something more fundamental for all women?

The constitution, regular and coordinated announcements, organization, and announcements, are there any issues in these matters for them or not, and most importantly, do they have a specific demand plan for women? None of the at least eight protesting movements were in the coalition's framework nor in the activity of solving the problem with this side of the movement’s work. Failure to plan a specific vision for the movement is one of the primary factors in the anonymity and invisibility of the movement’s presence in the long-term scene.

Other issue is needed to have vision and rebuild it is:

  1. Negative Face Competition in Fame Attraction,
  2. Indifference and intergroup distrust, and personal exploitation,
  3. Targeted revision and transition to dynamics.


Abdul Saboor Sitez, is a writer and expert on International Relations. His articles have appeared in publications, such as: Hasht - e - Subh, Etilaat Roz, Subh - e - Kabul, Afghan Women's Voices, Zan - e Rooz.



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The article does not reflect the official opinion of the AISS.