Is the Taliban Bent on Erasing Women from Public Life?


Photo location: Faisal Mosque, Islamabad, Pakistan @Ali Ahmad

By SS Ahmad 

On this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8, thousands of women in Afghanistan were looking forward to a little bit of sun in their darkening lives—they hoped against hope that the Taliban rulers would allow the young women to pursue education in schools and colleges.

But their collective dreams crashed two days ago, when the Taliban government declared the universities and colleges open but only for males from March 6. 

Hopes and aspirations of young women and girls were crushed by this new Taliban regime diktat which killed even the little hope they were nursing so diligently for the past year to study, to explore knowledge and the world.  The Taliban’s refusal to allow women to attend colleges and schools prove how retrogressive and cruel the regime has been, and continues to be so.

In its latest report, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, found that the Taliban’s treatment of women and girls “may amount to gender persecution, a crime against humanity”. He reported to the United Nations Human Rights Council on March 6 that the Taliban wanted to erase the women from public life.

Despite international outcry, the Taliban leadership remains in the grip of regressive leadership which wants to keep the women behind the veil, uneducated and dependent on males. Women can hardly walk free from the shadows of their male guardians. Many of them, not long ago, walked alone, worked alone, played in teams, did weight lifting and let loose their hair in clubs. Those days are difficult to imagine today with public flogging, arrests and shaming.

Cruelty and revenge are two other characteristics of the Pakistan-bred Taliban. Ever since the Taliban had come to power, with the help of the Pakistan Army, the militant group had been hunting down any dissenters or members of previous regimes. Brigands of Taliban members have been extorting and looting ordinary citizens to supplement their resources for guns and butter. In the Dara-i Sufi Bala district of Samangan province, the Taliban has been extorting money from residents of Kota and Chardeh villages to buy weapons and other daily needs. Residents are picked  up, detained and interrogated to extract money.

Relatives of former governor of Bamiyan, Tahir Zahir, have been locked up as part of the terror campaign. Mohammad Mohaqiq, the leader of the People’s Islamic Unity Party, who has been hiding in Turkey since the Taliban takeover, has called out the Taliban for mass detention, murder, and extortion.

Another key figure, a former police commander of Behkkhel district in Paktika province, Badruddin Haidari, was killed in detention by the Taliban’s 203 Mansoori Corps. Haidari had fled the country and taken shelter in Pakistan. He returned recently but was detained when the Taliban was raiding an exchange shop in the province. 

The Taliban has detained a father-son duo of police men in Kabul for working with the previous government. They were from Panjshir province where the anti-Taliban National Resistance Movement was based. The Taliban had promised amnesty when it returned to power in August last year. But former government officials, police men and others associated with previous regimes in Panjshir have been hounded ever since. 

In Kabul, the situation is quite similar. Dissenters have been detained and thrown into secret cells. One such prominent person was university lecturer and social activist Ismail Mashal Mashal. He was arrested  a month ago by the Taliban security forces for running a campaign to distribute books to people while wheeling his “library cart” through Kabul street. In December, he had torn his certificates during a TV chat show to protest against the ban on the rights of women to education. He said where women had no right to education, he cannot remain a teacher. 

Such widespread repression and subjugations of women and others by the Taliban regime, despite international persuasion, makes Afghanistan a rogue country with no hope for its millions.

* SS Ahmad is a freelance researcher and journalist based in Afghanistan.  

Note: The contents of the article are of sole responsibility of the author. Afghan Diaspora Network will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the articles.

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