Women’s Rights Under Taliban Rule — Reality Or A Dream?

The Taliban has declared an amnesty for those who had been working with the previous Afghan government and other foreign powers and have called for women joining the upcoming Islamic Emirate within the limits of the “Shariah law”. These have been the first comments on governance after the Taliban blitzkrieg told by a member of the Taliban’s cultural commission, Enamullah Samangani on Tuesday. The government structure is expected to be announced in the following days with full religious leadership.

Although the militant group has tried to reassure people across the globe that they will be much more open than their ultraconservative state during 1996-2001, there have been some reports of human rights violations. In July, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission said that in some areas controlled by the Taliban, women were already ordered not to attend health services without a male guardian.

Today, deadly protests have erupted in Jalalabad demanding the reinstallation of the national flag and it is believed that Taliban fighters have opened fire at protesters, three people have died and 12 are injured.

Women’s rights

Afghan’s, especially women and young girls, are afraid of the group’s ultra-conservative views. Before the US-led invasion of the country after 9/11, some penalizations of the Taliban included “stonings, amputations, public executions and no public space for women”, according to Dawn Today.

Now, “the Islamic Emirate doesn’t want women to be victims” and they “should be in the government structure according to Shariah law,” Samangani said. As the TRTWorld reports, he did not describe exactly the limits of Islamic law. Moreover, on Tuesday, at the Taliban’s first press conference since controlling Kabul, spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed that women would have rights to education, health, and employment and “be very active within our society.” Nevertheless, he gave no specific answer to what their rights will be looking like.

The Taliban are trying to show a clear departure from the last time they were in power. Back during 1996-2001 women were largely confined to their homes, and education and working were prohibited. Male guardianship was active, they had to cover with a Burka, be accompanied by a male relative when outside their houses, and leave school when they were 10 years old.

It is in this uncertainty that fears are growing amongst women who have seen a huge advance in their rights during these past 20 years, and now are seeing a setback. As a matter of fact, this unpredictability has already increased Burqa prices. Women are frantically buying them, in case they need them under the Taliban rule.

Many analysts, activists, and journalists are talking about a meticulous marketing campaign that the Taliban are using in order to clean their reputation and gain international recognition. Teacher and human rights activist, Pashtana Durrani, has told the BBC that what “the Taliban say on women’s rights and what they’re doing in practice are two different things.” There are numerous testimonies of women being ousted from work and replaced by male workers in Kandahar and some girls not being able to go to their universities in Herat. Furthermore, over social media, Afghan women and girls are continuously tweeting about new prohibitions such as the closing of schools and not being allowed to enter offices and government jobs.

The Taliban’s newest promises have been received with a mix of skepticism and expectation with some women completely disbelieving them and refusing to live under their restrictions and others seeing a glimpse of hope. Some Afghan women told the BBC, “If we’re able to work and get educated, that’s the definition of freedom for me, that’s my red line. That red line is not crossed by the Taliban yet” while another thinks that “as long as my right to study and work is protected, I don’t mind wearing a hijab. I live in an Islamic country and I’m willing to accept the Islamic dress code – as long as it’s not a burqa though because that’s not an Islamic dress code.”

Times have changed

If the Taliban are for a return to the old establishment, Afghan women have definitely changed and are defiant. “The Taliban are aware they can’t silence us, and if they shut down the internet the world will know in less than 5 minutes. They will have to accept who we are and what we have become” has said Khadija, who runs a religious school for girls in Afghanistan, to AM New York Metro.

Afghan women have been able to get an education and a job during these past 20 years and can depend on themselves, so defiance is deeply rooted in the current generation. There is a generation “full of energy, hope, and dreams,” Shukriya Barakzai told photojournalists covering Afghanistan for two decades Lynsey Addario. They are more alert and able to communicate with the rest of the world.

According to Al Jazeera, talks to peacefully pass on the power appear to be continuing between the Taliban and Afghan government officials, including former President Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, who once headed the country’s negotiating council.

The only way to see whether the Taliban promises stand true is if women can maintain their quality of life with socio-political and economic rights and the ability to work in political and policy-making jobs. One thing is for certain: women in Afghanistan are not going to tolerate being wiped out of the map and are willing to fight for freedom.

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