Women Rights in Afghanistan

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By FTN Editorial Team

Nearly three months after the Taliban illegitimately wrested power, Afghanistan is at the edge of abyss. United Nations has already warned that Afghanistan is on the brink of one of the world’s  worst humanitarian crises.

That this hugely unstable condition has been created by the strategic and operational missteps of the largest global military power of the world, the US, makes this development of much greater concern – to the Americans themselves and their allies and partners. Since the foreign troops have withdrawn Taliban has been building a narrative of a “moderate Taliban” to gain recognition from International community. The messaging is focused on amnesty, community reconciliation, stability and reconstruction. In fact Taliban spokespersons had made a number of statements indicating formation of an “inclusive,” administration. However, the benign mask of Taliban has gone as the Taliban has formed an overwhelming ethnic, all-male government and is anything but inclusive. A large number of its members are on the UN global list of terrorists. Further there have been reports of escalating violence, gross human rights violations and retributive and ethnic killings. It is becoming clear that Taliban 2.0 is going to be worst, as its worldview remains unchanged, rooted in medieval ideologies. Especially on the crucial issue of women rights. Though In the first Taliban news conference after the group regained control of the Afghan capital, Kabul, Taliban spokesperson, Zabiullah Mujahid sought to reassure women. “Our sisters, our men have the same rights,” he said. Officially, in these talks, Taliban leaders emphasize that they wish to grant women’s rights “according to Islam”.

The Islamists proceeded to immediately abolish the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, indicating a tough path ahead for women in the country. The new government formed by the Taliban is all male, comprising mostly mullahs. Even in the Ministry of Education, female professionals are absent.  The Taliban’s Higher Education Ministry consulted only male teachers and students on resuming the function of universities. The illegitimate regime that has stripped women of basic rights and plunged their country deeper into poverty and hunger amid an economic meltdown. Taliban have killed schoolgirls, policewomen and women in government. The family members are too afraid of reprisal killings or torture by the Taliban. In some provinces, women are being told not to come to work or not to leave their homes without a male relative. Women protection centers are being attacked, and the people that work in them are being harassed. Safe houses for women human rights defenders, including activists and journalists, are at capacity.

Afghan women know the Taliban’s history all too well. The Taliban ruled all of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Everyone faced restrictions under their conservative interpretation of Islam, but those imposed on women were the most stringent. Women couldn’t leave their homes without a male guardian, and were required to cover their bodies from head to toe in a long robe called a burqa. They could not visit health centers, attend school or work. The 2010 Human Rights Watch Report clearly indicates that there is no change in the ideology of the Taliban in the post-2001 era also. It states that “in areas they control or influence, the Taliban have threatened and attacked women in public life and ordinary women who work outside their homes. Therefore, it is imperative to judge all the proclamations made by the Taliban leaders at the international stage about their commitment towards women’s rights and gender equality on the basis of their actions rather than mere rhetoric.

Though the situation for women and girls in the country is bleak, but we continue to see women fighting for their rights and demanding equality. This hasn’t changed, and it will not change. Afghan women have been at the forefront of fighting for their rights for centuries.  Women are taking to the streets and protesting, even in the face of violence from the Taliban and attempts to ban protest. Women have now taken to social media to protest against the Taliban’s hardline policies towards them. An online campaign has seen Afghan women around the world share photos of themselves wearing traditional colourful clothes, using the hashtag #DoNotTouchMyClothes.

Gender equality, though not a fundamental right, is a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. Even though more women today are serving in leadership positions, they still remain underrepresented. Afghan women voices should be heard. UNDP said that depriving women of paid employment could drive GDP down by up to five percent, calling their jobs “vital to mitigate the economic catastrophe”.In addition, there is a loss in consumption — women who no longer work no longer have a salary and can no longer buy as much as before to feed or equip their homes – which could reach $500 million per year, according to the UNDP. Afghanistan “cannot afford to forfeit this”

As the Amnesty International said, the international community must stand by its long-term commitment to support women’s rights in Afghanistan. Women around the world should raise their voices! It’s so important to support each other .It’s about humanity. It’s about a shared world.

By Zarifa Ghafari

Zarifa Ghafari is an Afghan activist and politician. In November 2019, she became the mayor of Maidan Shahr, capital city of the Wardak ProvinceAfghanistan. Zarifa used to be one of the few Afghanistani female mayors, and also was the youngest to be appointed at the age of 26. She is known for her efforts to advance women’s rights in Afghanistan