When the Taliban regained power over Afghanistan in 2021, it promised to abandon its repressive governance. Today, however, young Afghan women find themselves living like those who suffered through the Taliban’s 1996 to 2001 reign.
The Taliban are slowly implementing laws that target the rights and freedoms of women. On May 12, they implemented segregation laws in Herat, a city in the nation’s west.
The decree forbids women and men from dining out together. Women are also now required to stay at home unless necessary, in which case they must have a male guardian accompanying them. Women and men must visit parks on separate days – with Thursday, Friday and Saturday reserved for women while men have the remaining four days.
This comes just a few days after women were ordered to wear hijabs that cover their faces, preferably burqas which obscure a woman from head to toe, leaving room only to expose her eyes.
“For all dignified Afghan women, wearing Hijab is necessary and the best Hijab is chadori (the head-to-toe burqa) which is part of our tradition and is respectful,” said Shir Mohammad in a statement for the Taliban’s Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.
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The Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice is the Taliban tate agency in charge of implementing Islamic law. The ministry is known for patrolling Afghan streets to enforce a harsh interpretation of Sharia Law.
India Express reported that in the past, the ministry “banned music, carried out public executions, whipped and publicly humiliated women”. The agency was reintroduced into Afghan society when the Taliban reclaimed power following the swift departure of the US Army. Simultaneously, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs was dissolved and, according to Human Rights Watch, “to add insult to injury, the Taliban government handed over the women’s ministry building to be the new home of the vice and virtue ministry.”
Afghanistan has had laws that mimic the new ones. But this time, disobedience will be treated as a criminal offense not just for women, but for male relatives and friends as well. For further reassurance that their laws will be abided by, male “guardians” will now be punished for allowing women to leave the house without the mandated attire.
“If a woman is caught without a hijab, her mahram (a male guardian) will be warned. The second time, the guardian will be summoned [by Taliban officials] and after repeated summons, her guardian will be imprisoned for three days, ”according to the statement.
This marks a sharp pivot from when Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, proclaimed that “our sisters, our men have the same rights,” in an unconvincing attempt to reassure the world of a new, modern Taliban.
Shortly after his remarks, women were banned from working and girls were prohibited from attending school beyond Grade 6 in most of the country.
Barbara Woodward, Britain’s UN Ambassador, has expressed concern regarding the latest developments. CTV reported that she described pre-Taliban Afghanistan as “a thriving cultural environment” with 3.6 million girls in school and a quarter of the seats in Parliament held by women. Today’s Afghanistan tells a different story.
“I very much hope that very soon we will be able to agree on a product that expresses our collective agreement and concern about these latest developments,” Woodward said in regards to the UN’s political mission in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan has been suffering from a humanitarian crisis since the Taliban takeover. More than half of the population is facing hunger. The Taliban’s struggle to restore the economy is heavily impeded by international sanctions that exclude them from major financial institutions. The latest developments will only further isolate them, bringing even more suffering to its innocent civilians.
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