by Akina Nanayakkara
Image: Akina Nanayakkara
As of modern-day, Afghanistan’s major cities are now under Taliban control. Airports flooded with Afghans desperate to flee from the bleak and dangerous future fast approaching under Taliban control. Recent images of men and women clinging to airplane carriers illustrate the dire threat of remaining in the country. However, there is a pronounced asymmetry in the threat regarding the future for Afghan women and girls. As of the present day, millions of Afghan women and girls have been making immense strides in education, securing them futures that were incomprehensive under previous Taliban rule. However, as of recently, the fear of losing education and fundamental human rights has resurrected for women.
Under previous Taliban rule, women and girls were restricted from a myriad of activities in everyday life. These restrictions ranged from prohibiting women from accessing education to windows of buildings being covered to prevent passers-by from seeing women in their own homes. Women caught rebelling against these rules faced punishments including stoning and heavy beating. The severity and brutal nature of regulations and punishments the Taliban once exercised limited women to very few opportunities stripping them of their livelihoods, reducing them to prisoners in their own homes.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid informed news networks in late August that women would be allowed education and “rights within the norms of Islamic law” but provided no further specifics. Nonetheless, this information is hardly reassuring; almost all Afghan women speaking out regarding the issue have voiced their concrete concern that their education and futures, and that of their fellow Afghan women and girls, are severely at stake.
However, in the rare instance that the promises by leaders of the Taliban are sincere; recent cases of mistreatment towards women argue that a different story is playing out in reality. Numerous cases have surfaced of women being prevented from entering their offices and workplaces and door to door searches being carried out against them. Further cases include women being prohibited from entering schools or government buildings where they study or work. It seems that the more progressive ideals the Taliban is currently showing are skin deep and are only a front to the deeply misogynistic and violent practices the group still holds.
It is a matter of urgency that the threat for Afghan women is given appropriate concern. The international community must push for an official confirmation in definite laws from the Taliban that secure and protect women’s rights as we advance. Western powers also have the immense opportunity to welcome those fleeing by increasing refugee quotas and investing in appropriate infrastructure to support refugees. However, it is also vital that this action is taken rapidly in accordance with the growing threat.