Calvin grad helps organize global protests


Photo by Maya Oeverman

Protesters across the world marched for justice for women in Afghanistan.

Calvin alumna Freshta Tori Jan led a gathering in protest of the treatment of women in Afghanistan in early January. The gathering was held at Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids.

“We brought 25 plus countries across the world and over 50 cities globally together because these girls in my hometown have asked us to come out for them,” Tori Jan told Chimes. 

The Jan. 14 protest was coordinated with the Global Movement for Peace in Afghanistan (GMPA). Tori Jan worked for GMPA in Grand Rapids and organized the community protest in concert with communities across the globe. 

The Global Movement for Peace in Afghanistan and Tori Jan hope to remove stigma around and develop sympathy for problems in Afghanistan through these protests and events.

GMPA is also calling for world governments to acknowledge the problems that the Taliban has created. “A lot of governments have acknowledged the Taliban as an official government. … We want this acknowledgment taken away, and we want a travel ban to be placed on the Taliban,” Tori Jan said. 

Additionally, given the role the United States played in the Taliban’s takeover, Tori Jan and GMPA want to make the U.S. (and other countries) more aware of injustices happening in Afghanistan under the Taliban.

The political and economic situation in Afghanistan has been deteriorating since the Taliban took over in 2021. 

“Women in particular are suffering in many ways, having been excluded from basic human rights,” Tori Jan said. 

Calvin grad Freshta Tori Jan grew up in Afghanistan and now advocates for her former
neighbors. (Photo by Maya Oeverman)

According to a document provided by Tori Jan, written by peer and fellow activist Omar Haidari, women in Afghanistan are now banned from schools and universities, appearing on TV, going to the gym, working for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and traveling. They cannot even access healthcare without a male escort. 

“This oppression is leading to devastating consequences like forced child marriages, forced marriages, child labor, suicides and starvation,” Haidari wrote.   

At the Grand Rapids protest, Tori Jan gave a speech to the crowd, then marchers — who carried signs with slogans like “Let her learn,” and “you can take away my books and pen but never my courage” — walked the sidewalks of Grand Rapids. 

Protesters also chanted “All or none” and “Sanction the Taliban.”

“It was great to see people who are really passionate about [women’s rights in Afghanistan],” Tori Jan said. “Many were asking what more they could do and wanting to invite more people to the next event — starting the domino effect.” 

Tori Jan’s own experience informs her passion for this issue. She left her hometown in Afghanistan to pursue an education in America. “Before I left, my mother told me to ‘go fight for the rest of us,’” Tori Jan said.

When she graduated, Tori Jan said she felt guilty about celebrating her achievements because so many women were “robbed of the opportunity I had been given.”

“Now I can’t just sit and enjoy the freedom I have when I know people — people I care about — aren’t,” Tori Jan said. 

“We are holding another worldwide protest in March,” Tori Jan told Chimes, “and we will keep fighting until countries acknowledge the problem.”