War Against Women More Fierce in Afghanistan


Hasht-E Subh Over the past 16 months, human rights regression and violations against women and girls have ascended exponentially. Despite initial promises that women would be allowed to exercise their rights within Sharia law, including the right to work and study, the Taliban have systematically excluded women and girls from public life. But the Taliban totalitarian regime have gone back on their promises, imposing curbs on women’s movement, introducing strict dress codes for women, and shutting down high schools for girls – bringing back memories of their repressive regulations in the 1990s.

The Taliban barred women from work and studies and shrouded them in an all-enveloping veil. Forcing female public-sector workers to stay at home and preventing them from working in government is a clear violation of human rights. This policy has caused immense hardship for many working women and their families, who now have to fend for themselves without any income. Women who worked in government positions were sent home from their jobs shortly after the Taliban took power in August 2021 and their pay was heavily reduced to force them to leave their jobs.

According to the United Nations, Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan has led to a 28 percent decrease in women’s employment in the country.

Meanwhile, several women told the Guardian that they have received calls from the Taliban officials demanding them to introduce male relatives for the positions they held with the government.

“They kept us indoors and trampled on our lives. There is no authority to which we can appeal to obtain our rights.” Nabila, a 25-year-old female government employee based in Kabul province, told Hasht-e Subh.

It is not only government positions that women were forced to leave. According to Reporters Without Borders, around 700 female journalists lost their jobs.

In 2019, 36% of teachers in the country were women, according to World Bank figures, the highest number in 20 years. Still, the Taliban’s ban on girls’ education in March forced many of them out of work.

“Current restrictions on women’s employment have been estimated to result in an immediate economic loss of up to $1bn – or up to 5% of Afghanistan’s GDP.” Sima Bahous, the UN Women executive director, said.

Violence against women by the Taliban is well-documented, that includes beatings, detention, honor killings, and forced marriages. Afghan women have endured the brunt of the Taliban’s oppression. Women who peacefully protested against these oppressive rules have been threatened, arrested, detained, tortured, and forcibly disappeared, according to a report by Amnesty International.

“We were beaten on our breasts and between the legs. They did this to us so that we couldn’t show the world. A soldier who was walking next to me hit my chest and said, ‘I can kill you right now, and no one would say anything.’ This happened every time we went out: we were insulted – physically, verbally, and emotionally.” A female protester told amnesty international.

Since November 04 this year Taliban have arrested at least three prominent women human rights defenders, Zarifa Yaqoobi, Farhat Popalzai, and Humaira Yusuf, and their colleagues.

“This is yet another attempt to quell all forms of peaceful protests and any dissent against the Taliban’s oppressive policies that violate human rights, particularly of women and girls’.” Said Samira Hamidi, Amnesty International’s South Asia Campaigner.

The Taliban have always been notoriously anti-woman and are ultimately imposing repeated policies.

When the Taliban took control of Kabul On September 28, 1996, Radio Kabul (Radio Shariah) announced, “By order of Amirul Momineen (commander of the faithful, Mullah Muhammad Omar) women are not allowed to venture outside of their homes.” The Supreme Council issued decrees that forbade women from working outside the home, attending school, or leaving their homes unless accompanied by a mahram (husband, father, brother, or son). In public, women must be covered from head to toe in a “Chadari,” with only one mesh hole to see through. They are not allowed to wear white socks or shoes (the color of the Taliban flag) or shoes that make noise when walking. In addition, the Taliban severely restricted women’s access to health care and closed women’s public baths.

Women’s emancipation and rights were lost again with the arrival of the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan last August.

“Living under Taliban rule is like living in the darkest of ages. Afghan women have been robbed of their basic rights and dignity. We can only hope that someday soon, the Taliban will be gone, and women in Afghanistan will be able to live free of fear and oppression.” 29 years old Khalida from Kabul province told Hasht-e Subh.

Yet, Afghan women have been at the forefront of the resistance to the Taliban rule. Afghan women are fighting for their rights and are determined to build a better future for themselves tirelessly.

History shows that dictatorships cannot be sustained for too long. The Taliban rule is a dark time for Afghan women, but it is not the end of their story.

Gender segregation is one of the Taliban’s top priorities. Since taking back power in August, the militant group has gradually resurrected its discriminatory policies, enforcing strict segregation at the universities, government offices, and on public transportation.

Weeks ago, Afghan women were barred from gyms and parks, according to Mohammed Akef Mohajer, a Taliban-appointed spokesman for the Ministry of Virtue and Vice.

“For 15 months, we gave our sisters the opportunity to enjoy going to parks. We told women to follow the practice of wearing the hijab, but some were not doing that. We had separate days for men and women to go to parks, but that was not being observed,” he says.

“I went to the Habibullah Zazi private park in east of Kabul, and the park staff told me that the Taliban ordered them not to permit women to enter the parks.” A source told Hasht-e Subh.

This is the latest way the Taliban have sought to control and restrict women’s lives in Afghanistan. They have already barred them from work, forced them to wear restrictive clothing, covered their faces with masks during TV appearances, forbidden them from secondary education, and banned them from going out in public without a male relative.

Taliban’s restrictions on secondary education for girls were one of the darkest aspects of their rule in Afghanistan. Millions of girls have been left without access to education. They are at risk of early marriage and pregnancy, which can have lifelong effects on their health and well-being. They are also more likely to live in poverty and be denied other fundamental rights. The country’s already low literacy rate is going to decline further.

Taliban’s restrictions on education are harmful not only for girls, but for the whole country. In Afghanistan where most teachers have historically been women, the termination of education for women and girls will likely have a disastrous effect on men and boys as well. While schools for boys have not closed, but they severely lack teachers.

“Closing the school doors will not help the people of Afghanistan; even the Taliban will regret this later.” Tamana Ayazi, an Afghan filmmaker, told Human Rights Watch.

Prolonged restrictions on education will also negatively affect a woman’s ability to make informed choices regarding health practices, access health care services, and participate in treatment regimens.

Taliban have deliberately turned fundamental rights such as the right to education for girls into a bargaining chip in talks with the international community. This means subjects Afghan women and girls to a life of oblivion and oppression. Taliban’s restrictions on education not only violates the human rights of Afghan women and girls but also rob them of a better future.

“These young girls just wanted to have a future, and now they don’t see any future ahead of them.” Fatima, a 25-year-old high school teacher based in Nangarhar province, said to the Amnesty International.

Taliban’s treatment of women is a throwback to the darkest ages, and it must not be allowed to continue. The world must come together to pressure the Taliban to end their repression of Afghan women, to let them live free and equal lives.

Bio: Mujtaba Haris is an Afghan researcher and writer. He has written extensively about the human rights, humanitarian crisis, security, and development situation in Afghanistan. He has been published in several international media outlets.

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