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Afghan women, girls fear harsh Taliban rule

The UN warns the Taliban is going ‘door to door’ to track down those who worked with the United States or NATO in the country [Stringer/EPA]


Afghan women, girls fear harsh Taliban rule


Afghan women are concerned that, in the midst of the Taliban onslaught, which has swiftly engulfed more than two-thirds of the nation, the militant group will reintroduce harsh Islamic constraints, particularly those affecting women.

There is a lot to lose for a whole generation of Afghan women who entered public life – legislators, journalists, local governors, physicians, nurses, teachers, and public administrators. While they worked alongside male colleagues and in communities that were unfamiliar with women in positions of power to help establish a democratically governed civil society, they also wanted to pave the way for future generations of women to follow in their footsteps.

Everything changed for Zahara, a 26-year-old resident of Herat, Afghanistan’s third-largest city, in a matter of minutes.

Nearly 250,000 Afghans have fled their homes since the end of May, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency, fearing that the Taliban will reimpose its harsh and brutal version of Islam, thereby abolishing women’s rights. Women and children account for 80% of those relocated.

Zahra is one of many young women who are concerned that their education and future will be wasted. She watched as the Taliban descended on Herat, Afghanistan’s third-largest city, on Thursday evening, waving white flags and an Islamic statement of faith.

Zahra grew up in an Afghanistan that was mainly free of the Taliban, where women dared to dream of jobs and girls were educated. She has spent the last five years working with local charity groups to promote women’s awareness and advocate for gender equality.


“I am in big of shock,” Zahra, who works for a non-profit organization that promotes women’s rights, told the Associated Press.

The Taliban now control more than two-thirds of the nation, barely two weeks before the US withdraws its final soldiers, thanks to a rapid attack over the previous three days. And they’re getting closer to Kabul, the capital.

Until the US-led invasion in 2001, the fundamentalist organization governed the nation for five years. During that period, it prohibited girls from receiving an education and women from working, as well as denying them the right to move beyond their houses without the presence of a male relative. The Taliban also executed people in public, hacked off criminals’ hands, and stoned women convicted of adultery.

As the Taliban approached, Zahra stopped coming to work and started working from home a month ago. However, she has been unable to work since Thursday.

There have been no verifiable reports of such harsh tactics in the regions recently taken by Taliban forces. Militants, on the other hand, are said to have taken control of some homes and set fire to at least one school.

Families claimed Friday that girls going home in a motorized rickshaw in the northern Takhar province were stopped and lashed for wearing “revealing sandals” at a park in Kabul that has been converted into a refuge for the displaced since last week.

Many other educated Afghan women have resorted to social media to request assistance and vent their dissatisfaction.

On Twitter, Afghan photographer Rada Akbar said, “With every city collapsing, human bodies collapse, dreams collapse, history and future collapse, art and culture collapse, life and beauty collapse, our world collapse.”

CARE International’s deputy country director in Kabul, Marianne O’Grady, stated that women have made significant progress in the last two decades, particularly in urban areas, and that she does not envision things returning to the way they were, even if the Taliban takeover occurs.

“You can’t uneducate millions of people,” she said. If women “are back behind walls and not able to go out as much, at least they can now educate their cousins and their neighbors and their own children in ways that couldn’t happen 25 years ago.”

Farkhunda Zahra Naderi, a former legislator and top UN advisor to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani who is now a member of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, has watched as her nation has opened up to become a member of the global community over the last two decades.

In an interview with Bloomberg, she stated, “My greatest fear is now they are marginalising women who have been working in these leadership positions, who have been a strong voice against the most powerful abusers but also working with them to change the situation on the ground.” Who will stand up for women and protect the advances gained over the previous 20 years if these leaders are removed? she wonders.

“I feel we are like a bird who makes a nest for a living and spends all the time building it, but then suddenly and helplessly watches others destroy it,” Zarmina Kakar, a 26-year-old women’s rights activist in Kabul, said.

Kakar was a year old when the Taliban initially invaded Kabul in 1996, and she recalls her mother taking her out to have ice cream while the Taliban were in power. A Taliban warrior beat her mother for showing her face for a few minutes.

“Today again, I feel that if Taliban come to power, we will return back to the same dark days,” she added.

Taliban officials repeatedly promised that women will continue to enjoy equal rights under Islamic law, including the opportunity to work and be educated, in discussions with Western and other leaders that eventually failed this month in Doha. However, women are already losing their employment to males in places controlled by Taliban insurgents.

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