Afghan women say they fear a “painful and ugly” future after the Taliban ordered working women to stay at home, with some worried they will be unable to feed their families.
Aid worker Wahida Noori, 30, told i that she and her brother financially supported eight members of her family in Kabul, and that she knew a lot of women in a similar position.
“If this continues and lasts, it will be very difficult for me and other women,” she said. “If (my family) lose one of our sources of income, our economic situation will deteriorate and I will not be able to buy and eat the foods and fruits that (we have) now.”
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She was able to return to the office on Wednesday for the first time since the Taliban took control of the city, but is worried it may have been the last. “I have to avoid a lot of expenses if I lose my job,” she said, adding that another brother was unable to find a job while instability continues to grip the country.
Munera Yousufzada, Afghanistan’s former deputy defence minister, called on “women fighters in the world” to protest and speak up for Afghan women and girls (Photo: Munera Yousufzada)
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told reporters in Kabul on Tuesday that the group was working on procedures for female workers to return to their jobs but that for now they should stay home for “security” reasons. “It’s a very temporary procedure,” he added.
Many fear that the hard-fought progress for women’s employment rights and girls’ education in the past two decades will be undone overnight.
Munera Yousufzada, Afghanistan’s former deputy defence minister, told i that the Taliban’s announcement was “the beginning of restrictions for women”.
She added: “I believe that the Taliban has never changed. They do not believe in the values of human rights and women’s rights. The security problem is an excuse to restrict women.”
She said she feared that the withdrawal of international forces by 31 August would lead to the Taliban imposing more restrictions against women, “which means that half of the society is paralysed.”
A woman and children wait for transportation to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul where thousands are trying to flee the country (US Marine Corps/1st Lt. Mark Andries/Handout via Reuters)
She called on “women fighters in the world” to protest and speak up for Afghan women and girls. “We Afghan women wanted a just and lasting peace,” she added. “Without the consent of women, there can be no just peace.
“The image of Afghanistan without women is very painful and very ugly. Believe me, the city of Kabul was more beautiful with its daughters, and now they want to destroy this beauty and turn it off.”
During the Taliban’s rule from 1996 until they were ousted from power by a US-led invasion in 2001, women could not work, and if they wanted to venture out of their home they had to wear a burqa which covered their face, and be accompanied by a male relative. Since 2001, women have been allowed more freedom and the opportunity for education. Ms Yousufzada said that her country without women was “weak”.
“This process must not be stopped, it must be strengthened to show that Afghanistan is moving towards positive change. I do not expect it from the Taliban, but we expect our international supporters to monitor the Taliban closely.”
After retaking control of Afghanistan 10 days ago, the Taliban has sought to reassure Afghans that it is not out for revenge and that women will be allowed to work as long as their jobs were consistent with Islamic law – without elaborating on what that means.
Women’s faces are disappearing from public view, on television screens, in universities and on the streets. Shaharzad Akbar, chairperson for the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, warned that Afghanistan was now “in its worst moment”.
She said: “Women in Afghanistan are being turned (away) from their offices by the Taliban, universities have been asked to discuss gender segregation possibilities, women are required to be accompanied by male members of their family in public, media are not broadcasting music, journalists and activists are in hiding.”
Women in rural Afghanistan are also being rounded up by insurgents for forced marriages, according to the Evening Standard. Nafisa Sakhizada, from the Saighan district in central Bamyan province, told the paper that the local mullah (mosque leader) announced over the mosque’s loudspeakers that the Taliban wanted a list of young girls of “marriageable age” as well as the names of widows who lost their husbands in conflict.
Women for Afghan Women (WAW), the largest women’s organisation in Afghanistan, said it was working “day and night, non-stop, for over a week” to get thousands of vulnerable women and their families to safety. In an Instagram post on Tuesday, the group said: “We are exploring every single alternative available to us. Despite the volatile situation, we will not stop until all options are exhausted.”