How Afghanistan’s Peaceful Shift Of Power Is A Threat To Women’s Rights

With the insurgent group, Taliban, regaining control over Afghanistan after a lapse of 20 years, the future of Afghan women is predicted to be filled with fear and uncertainty hereafter.

The Taliban had advanced towards Kabul after capturing major cities of Afghanistan. With the former president, Ashraf Ghani, fleeing to UAE with bags full of cash, the Taliban was met with no opposition, and subsequently subjugated the Afghan soil on 15th August 2021. With the rise of the Taliban to power, the women of Afghanistan have been at great risk of being victims of the new Emirate and losing their existing rights.

War in Afghanistan had witnessed women being reduced to mere objects of oppression, and we’re used for manipulating the dignity of citizens. The same history is anticipated to be repeated under the new Taliban rule.

The existing ruling group has been infamous for violating women’s rights and subjecting them to extreme punishment if they fail to comply with their moral code of conduct.

Under its previous rule, The Taliban had formulated laws by its interpretation of the Islamic law of Sharia. Women and girls were barred from education, under almost all circumstances, and women (except for select, approved female doctors) were also prohibited from working outside of their homes. Also, leaving their homes without a male relative was looked down upon by the Taliban. Women were compelled to don burkas, a traditional Islamic garment that fully covers a person’s body, whenever they left their houses. Meanwhile, all kinds of entertainment such as music, television, and the interaction between sexes outside the family were also frowned upon. Failure to comply with the rules would often lead to extreme punishments, which included public executions.

Several reports had surfaced earlier, claiming that the Taliban has been making rounds of every door in Afghanistan to abduct young girls and make them “sex slaves” and also fighters in their group. The militant group had also directed the local religious leaders to provide them with a list of girls over 15 years of age and widows under 45. According to their statement, the Taliban had promised marriage for these girls to their fighters, whilst taking them to Pakistan’s Waziristan, where they will undergo purification and Islamic conversion.

Drifting away from their image of a feared terrorist organization, that is well known for condoning humanitarian crimes against Afghan citizens, the Taliban recently has claimed to take up a more moderate approach towards handling of issues at hand. Even after official statements by the group, the Afghan citizens still seem skeptical.

“All of us older women have been talking about how hard it was as a woman in the old days. I used to live in Kabul then and I remember how they beat the women and girls who left their homes without their burqas,” an Afghan woman recalled.

Men of their (s)words

The Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen had recently called out such reports regarding the abductions and forced marriages of girls “baseless” and had accused the previous Afghanistan government of spreading “poisonous propaganda.”

 

The major crux of the Taliban’s much-awaited press conference was the militant group vowing to honor the rights of women within the framework of Islamic law. The Taliban had also encouraged women to work and rejoin schools, whilst handing out headscarves in schools.

“We don’t want any internal or external enemies,” Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s main spokesman, told reporters.

“Women would be allowed to work and study and will be very active in society but within the framework of Islam”, he said.

Hours after these statements were made, several videos had emerged on social media showcasing the Mujahideens using sharp objects to hit women and children who were desperately trying to enter Kabul airport in their attempt to leave the country.

The insurgents also reported killing a woman who’d come out in public without a head covering in Takhar province. The woman was shot for not wearing a burqa, and her body was left lying on a pool of blood, while her family members were crying near it.

In Afghan streets, advertisements showing women in western clothes were covered with white paint, while men in western wear raced back home to change into traditional clothing.

The Taliban had also instructed the women working in the offices of two prominent banks in Herat and Kandahar to not return to their jobs. Radio Presenter Shabnam Dawran also exclaimed that she was turned away from her job at Afghanistan’s state-owned Radio Television Afghanistan in a video shared on Twitter.

“They told me that the regime has changed. You are not allowed, go home,” she said.

Senior Taliban leader Waheedullah Hashimi stated that the rights of Afghan women, about their right to work and education, will be decided by Ulemas or Islamic scholars. “Our ulema (scholars) will decide whether girls are allowed to go to school or not,” Hashimi told Reuters.

Additionally, Hashmi also revealed that the Islamic scholars would also decide the dress code of the women under the new Taliban regime. “They will decide whether they should wear hijab, burqa, or only (a) veil plus abaya or something, or not. That is up to them,” said Hashimi.

Taking matters into their own hands, Afghan women have been holding protests to safeguard their rights. A video showcasing 4 Afghan women holding a public protest went viral on social media, in the presence of the Taliban militants.

“All our achievements over the years should not be compromised and our basic rights,” the women said in the video.

The women were seen demanding basic rights such as social security, right to work, right to education, and right to political participation.

Meanwhile, The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) also plans to hold a special session to address the current scenario in Afghanistan, especially the humanitarian crisis in the country. The rights of women, along with those of Afghanistan’s several minority groups will also be a major aspect of the discussion.

Meanwhile, the Taliban were seen holding talks with former president Hamid Karzai. Anas Haqqani, Taliban commander and senior leader of the Haqqani Network, had met Karzai to discuss the establishment of a new government under the current regime.

This constant brawl between powers has left the Afghan women amid this tug of war. Many have chosen to flee the country, while others have chosen to comply with the new laws.

“The only thing people are thinking about is how to survive here or how to escape,” Aisha Khurram, a 22-year-old, was quoted as saying by AP in Kabul. “The only thing we have is our God.”

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