5 Basic Human Rights Afghan Women Are Being Denied By The Taliban
The Taliban have taken over Afghanistan, which is now The Islamic Emirate Of Afghanistan. It’s a name that was given to the country 20 years ago by the Taliban government, before it was ousted by the United States armed forces in 2001, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. The Taliban’s return to power leaves the future of the nation’s people in the lurch. There are bold claims that the Taliban has changed, but those that have lived under their oppressive regime two decades ago, are not keen on waiting to see if there’s any truth in the matter. Particularly, the Afghan women, who fear that they’d lose all agency, be confined to their homes, be married or sold into sex slavery to Taliban soldiers, and be prosecuted for stepping out of line. As you read this, there are several Afghan women artists, lawmakers, journalists and activists who through social media and news media, are sending out a plea for help to the world, as they wait for their freedoms to be snatched from them. The Taliban is at their doorstep, some reports say. And the fear is paralysing even for those of us who sit in our homes, miles aways, watching this destruction of humanity happen in 2021.
But then something pops up on your phone screen that makes you incredibly confused. In a statement issued by the Islamic Emirate’s cultural commission, “amnesty” has been announced for all in Afghanistan and, wait for it, women have been encouraged to join the government.
The Taliban declared an “amnesty” across Afghanistan and urged women to join its government, trying to calm nerves across a tense capital city that only the day before saw chaos at its airport as people tried to flee their rule. https://t.co/PTgue8ZfrH
— ABC News (@ABC) August 17, 2021
Enamullah Samangani, who is a member of the Islamic Emirate’s cultural commission, spoke on the Afghan state television about forming an inclusive government and bringing serenity to all of Afghanistan. “The Islamic Emirate don’t want women to be victims. The structure of government is not fully clear, but based on experience, there should be a fully Islamic leadership and all sides should join.”
To have a stumped reaction to this statement, or to have severe doubts about the integrity of these statements is only natural. Those women who remember life under the Taliban regime, remember what it was like, and their fears about relapsing into those old ways that repress women’s basic rights are not ill founded. Even members on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) have expressed their doubts on whether the Taliban intends to uphold its promise of an inclusive government or not. And the reports coming out of some of the cities that have been taken over, are not helping.
At a meeting of the UNSC convened in the wake of Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, the official Afghan ambassador Ghulam Isaczai expressed his concern. “I’m speaking for millions of Afghan girls and women who are about to lose their freedom… thousands of human rights defenders, journalists, academics, civil servants… whose lives are at risk… thousands of internally displaced people who are in desperate need of shelter and protection.”
Thank you for your leadership, Prime Minister, and for allowing me to share concerns I am hearing from women in Afghanistan. I urge the Security Council to pass a resolution to protect Afghan women, girls and minorities. https://t.co/tWAUoWk25z
— Malala (@Malala) August 16, 2021
1. Repressing creative and journalistic freedom of women across the country
Helplessness, desperation, the sense of abandonment in Afghanistan right now. So many messages tonight especially from young women pleading for help, afraid of what the future holds should the Taliban come back to power.
— Yalda Hakim (@BBCYaldaHakim) August 12, 2021
2. Threats to women in leadership roles
Taliban has threatened my sister, a lawmaker in Kabul. They sent her a warning letter that she will be punished soon. I need to get them out. Please connect me with anyone you know is doing the evacuations to any country.
— Ahmad Qais Munhazim (@QaisMunhazim) August 16, 2021
Many women in leadership roles in Afghanistan are now worried about their safety and futures under the Taliban rule. Nasreen Sultani, who is the principal of the Sardar-e-Kabuli Girls High School in Kabul, told NBC news that she has previously been threatened by the Taliban, who have told her “about the color of the car they might blow up.” “‘You all might die,’ they told us.”
Zarifa Ghafari, who became the first and youngest female mayor of Afghanistan’s Maidan Wardak province, said that she can’t do much but wait for the Taliban to show up at her door and kill her.
”I’m sitting here waiting for them to come. There’s no one to help me or my family;they’ll come for people like me & kill me.” Chilling, heartwrenching words from the brave #ZarifaGhafari Afghanistan’s first female mayor. Everything feels trivial next to the cries of Afghan women pic.twitter.com/KMBCUa7USE
— Elif Shafak (@Elif_Safak) August 16, 2021
In another video, a woman who arrived on the Air India flight AI244, which carried 129 passengers from Kabul to Delhi, on August 15, broke down at the Indira Gandhi International Airport. She said, “I can’t believe the world abandoned Afghanistan. Our friends are going to get killed. They (Taliban) are going to kill us. Our women are not going to have any more rights.”
3. Erasing women from the public sphere
As Kabul fell to the Taliban, images of the absolute chaos and mayhem in the streets of the capital were all over the media. Amidst those was an eerily calm yet rather telling visual of a beauty salon in the city which had ads featuring women in bridalwear, and showing of strands of hair, being painted over into oblivion.
If ads are being erased, what about the real identities of living, breathing women?
Also Read: Advertisements Outside A Beauty Salon In Kabul Showing Women Have Been Painted Over As The Taliban Assumes Power
4. Women being attacked, shamed and violently attacked in public for violating oppressive laws
There are many who continue to advocate for a ‘changed’ Taliban, and believe in its assurances of wanting to bring peace to all citizens, including women. Take, for example, China, who wants to extend a friendly hand towards the Taliban government. Or Pakistan’s ambassador Munir Akram, who though wasn’t allowed to be a part of the UNSC meet, said that he would like to take Taliban at their word about forming an inclusive government. He even said something about how Pakistan believed that women have demonstrated that they have a crucial role to play in the future of Afghanistan and should continue to do so.
Unfortunately, not in clothes of their choice or while listening to the music they want, and definitely not unchaperoned.
It was only a week ago that 21-year-old Nazanin, who lived in Balkh’s capital Mazar-e Sharif, was attacked by the Taliban for wearing tight-fitted clothes and walking out of the house without a male escort. Nazanin isn’t the only victim. There are several reports coming out of Afghanistan that claim women in some regions have been forced to confine to their homes and not step out unless in emergencies and only with a male escort. Many believe that girls’ education will also be severely hit. Although, UNICEF has said that there are some Taliban representatives that support girls’ education. In fact, there were visuals of girls going to school on the first day of Taliban’s rule, doing the rounds on social media, with people wondering how long this freedom was going to last.
There is also fear that with the return of power, the Taliban will also bring back it’s corporal punishments for women for ‘sins’ like adultery, which included public stoning.
5. Forced marriages and sexual enslavement of women
A gentle reminder that one of the justifications for the invasion of Afghanistan (just weeks after the adoption of Res 1325 by the UNSC) was "saving" women and children from the repression and brutality of the Taliban… We all remember this speech, right? https://t.co/m2kKBCAAWG
— Ana Velasco 💚 (@_anavelasco) August 15, 2021
In another horrifying report that emerged around the time the US forces were leaving and the Taliban was poised to seize power, the outfit has issued a decree to local religious leaders to make a list of unmarried girls above 15 years and widows below 45 years of age. These women would then be given in marriage to Taliban soldiers, as if they were nothing more than property or cattle used for breeding. The promise of a marriage has long been used as a tactic to lure men into joining the Taliban, while for women, this isn’t marriage but a form of sexual slavery.
It is outright depressing thinking about how many Afghan women are hurriedly getting married to escape the new Taliban decree of being taken as wives if they are unmarried or widowed.
They have been asking for their names.
— Aishwarya S Iyer (@iyersaishwarya) August 15, 2021
Many communities have reported that they’ve been asked to give up their young daughters for this purpose and it is only a matter of time before they’re taken away.
My wife is a doctor in 🇨🇦 and a proud Afghan woman with family in Kandahar. We have heard credible reports of women as young as 12 being forced to marry invading Taliban fighters, among other atrocities.
Is the world just going to watch this unfold? https://t.co/aYsALsLVBd
— Matt Burke (@MattBurkeMD) August 13, 2021
With the possibility of this terrifying future lying in wait for Afghan women, they were heartbreakingly conspicuous in their absence at the airport scene where people were clamouring to get onto the US Air flight. To the world, it looked like the men were abandoning the women to their fates.
Shocking and tragic image of people desperate and fleeing the Taliban and Afghanistan. Although my natural curiosity asks the question, where are all their wives. Men are married before 22 and women 19 and yet the picture shows 95% men. Abandoning women is equally as tragic. pic.twitter.com/WjMhJdDsCS
— Niall Boylan (@Niall_Boylan) August 17, 2021
The fears of the men and women of Afghanistan are rooted in a bloody history. So the mere words and assurances of the Taliban that it has changed and wants dignity and respect for the women of the state are not enough. Moreover, there are also the caveats that come with the freedoms that are being “allowed” to Afghan women.
In the words of Mahbooba Seraj, the founder of the Afghan Women’s Network, this is likely to set back Afghanistan and its women by 200 years.