By: Fariha Akhtari
During their regime, the Taliban misrepresented the whole notion of how women should be treated using their radical and fundamentalist interpretations of the Islamic religion. Living in a retrogressive manner, violating human rights, and a tendency to relive the dark eras of the Middle Ages are clear examples of the Taliban’s ruling in the 1990s – the bitter memories of which still linger in Afghans’ minds. Afghan women lost their basic human rights during the Taliban’s regime as women’s basic status as an independent human being was disrespected. Women deemed as second sex were enslaved by men as they used to spend days and nights under their ownership and power. Also, during the Taliban’s so-called Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan, Afghan women lost all the basic rights and freedoms they had gained by struggling against previous regimes. Therefore, Afghan women’s apprehensions have recently started to grow as the launch of the intra-Afghan peace talks, which are suspected to bring the Taliban back to power, seem right around the corner because they are the ones who stand to lose the most if that happens.
The deplorable image of Afghan women’s life during the Taliban era is still fresh in the minds of the oppressed women of our country. By sidelining women and beating them up without any reason, the Taliban have committed the greatest possible torture and betrayal against Afghan women. They were able to deprive Afghan women of their rights and whip them while possessing absolute power as they used their false religious justifications. There have also been cases of women being killed in public for minor human misconduct without a due legal process and a proper court order.
Under the Taliban’s ruling, women’s presence in the social life was banned and they were imprisoned at home as they had no place in the government and no right to go to school or continue their education or leave their homes without a Shariah Muharram (a male companion). Besides, women were denied their basic right to choose hijab, and even when their voices were heard outside their homes, they used to be lashed by the Taliban with whips.
The depiction of such a terrifying life is not only unimaginable for a new generation being born after the fall of the Taliban but is something that instills more fear in their hearts.
In areas under the control of the current internationally-backed government, the new generation enjoys some degree of basic rights and freedoms. Girls go to school and get higher education while women have the right to work and travel as they strive for an independent life. The presence and role of women in government institutions have expanded more than ever and they are fighting for equality and independence.
This is despite the fact that the Taliban have not yet changed their approach to women in areas under their control.
In the run-up to the intra-Afghan peace talks and against the backdrop of the fact that the power will be shared with the Taliban, there is a growing concern among the younger generation that they will face the same fate as women had during the Taliban’s rule. There is also anxiety about whether the Taliban’s reactionary and fundamentalist factions will be able to come to terms with the new living conditions and aspirations of women in the country – something they have struggled for since many years; or if the insurgent group will agree to the legitimate and human rights demands of women; or whether a guarantee exists that the Taliban will not resort to beatings, lashing, and killings again.
Peace and comprehensive prosperity are among the greatest aspirations of Afghans. Afghan women have suffered the most during the wars of the past decades and the heavy burden of problems has been placed on their shoulders. Over the years, even after the dark days of the Taliban’s rule, women’s rights continue to be violated in areas under the Taliban’s writ as the group’s extremist forces still victimize women. In some cases, we have seen images of women who are victims of street or kangaroo courts’ illegal verdicts; however, some incidents of violence against women in areas under their jurisdiction still remain unknown as they don’t get covered and reported by the media.
Currently, Afghan women face widespread concerns. They can no longer tolerate the continuation of war and violence, nor are they prepared for their human rights and freedoms to be sacrificed by the Taliban.
By accepting all the difficult and traditional circumstances stipulated by Afghan society, women still strive to enjoy their rights to equality, education, choice of hijab, custody of children, divorce, abortion and independence. They no longer want to be neglected of their human rights and made victims of peace talks and the ideology of the Taliban.
The Taliban, with their brutal history and practices over the past two decades, have kept the people of the country in poverty and misery, killing them in various ways and violating their human rights. The insurgent group has committed unforgivable violence against women. Now, it’s an opportunity for their leaders to make amends for their greatest mistakes, to choose the path of peace and security and prove their intentions for the future of the Afghan people, especially women, in practice. They should not allow the individual and human rights, including freedom of expression, of their fellow citizens to be trampled over due to their extremism, brutality and continued violence.
Views expressed in this article are of the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect that of APW’s.