Appearing tired but determined, Khan Wali Adil is surrounded by a group of young activists and university students in his protest tent outside the Afghan Parliament building in Kabul.
The colorful tent is decorated with banners bearing pictures of women and inscribed with moving slogans. “Women are not our concubines,” reads one. Another one calls for rights to be accorded to Afghan women and an end to their “inhumane treatment.”
Adil, 23, has been peacefully protesting for more than a month. He is calling on the lawmakers to ensure that Afghan women are given all the rights enshrined in the country’s constitution. He is particularly pressing for a blanket ban on forced marriages to settle blood feuds and property disputes between clans and families in his home province, Paktia.
Paktia is part of a southeastern Afghan region collectively called Loya or Greater Paktia together with the neighboring provinces of Paktika and Khost. Life in the deeply conservative region is still governed by centuries-old unwritten codes and customs collectively called Pashtunwali, which literally translates as The Way of Pashtuns. Many major Pashtun tribes count Loya Paktia as their home with Adil’s Ahmadzai tribe making up a sizeable part of Paktia’s population.
Adil says he has embarked on a nonviolent struggle to change the region’s current circumstances marred by violence and regressive cultural practices that often target the weak and vulnerable — women in particular.