Founder of Kabul-based startup deletes information on female staff

Sara Wahedi, founder of crisis-alert application Ehtesab, deleted all information about her female employees as the Taliban approached Kabul.

Wahedi told Rest Of The World, that she had deleted all photos, videos and online information on her female employees to safeguard them from the Taliban as they took over. “We do not feel safe”, she commented.

The Ehtesab application sent out alert push notifications to Kabul’s residents about roadblocks, power outages, gunfire and other risks. The founder started the application after she witnessed suicide bomb attack first hand in May 2018, which had led to a 12 hour lockdown and power outages in Kabul. When the authorities were of no help in providing relevant information, she designed the application and named it Ehtesab, meaning “accountability” in Pashto and Dari. The application, launched in March 2020, employed 20 people as part of its workforce in a small office in Kabul.

As the Taliban took over the city, the application worked vigorously to provide security updates for the city’s residents, even at the risk of crackdown given the nature of their service. The services do not mention the Taliban and have secured the information of female employees while the entire team works remotely.

Wahedi told the Rest Of The World that, “It is evident that anyone who is involved with media reporting, or raising issue of accountability, is seen by the Taliban as a direct threat. They are raiding homes and cracking down on journalists, [and] also whoever is involved with the aspects of reporting.”

After the Taliban took over Afghanistan nearly 20 years later, Afghan women feared that the their rights and freedom may be restricted by the new ruling force, like the last time it was in power. During that time women were not allowed to work unless in special circumstances, and were not allowed to leave their homes unless accompanied by a male relative, as stated by the 2001 US State Department report.

Wahedi reports that “The international community has put women in a situation where they cannot flee and there are significant barriers to their ability to seek safety and refuge. How can one expect women to climb over concrete barriers with barbed wires? Are we in a situation where all the money is invested in women’s empowerment cannot even be used to help women escape and seek refuge?” She believes young Afghan women pursuing non-traditional roles such as in tech, have the right to safety and refuge, which is being disregarded by the international community.

(This story has been published from The Express Tribune – Technology rss feed, without modifications to the text)