After 20 years of equality, the Taliban is placing cruel restrictions on women’s freedom again. Lynne O’Donnell, who was on one of the last flights out of Kabul last week, reports
Under the cover of Islam, the Taliban are forcing women from their jobs and back into their homes. In the capital Kabul, television presenters at a state network have been barred from work. A senior editor at a private TV station says the Taliban are demanding all women adopt the full hijab even when on air. Out on the streets, women are no longer seen in the few cafés that have reopened since the Taliban takeover of Kabul on August 15. Billboards featuring women have been painted over, and photographs and depictions of women in the windows of hairdressing salons and fashion retailers have been defaced. Women are disappearing from public life, bringing an end to 20 years of freedom and equality.
The fall of Kabul to the Taliban has taken Afghanistan back to the days of the extremists’ regime from 1996 to 2001, when women were invisible, ordered to wear all-covering burkas outside their homes and banned from school and work. After a liberating two decades of education, work, and participation in public, political and economic life, women in Afghanistan are now facing a return to that same fate. The return of the Taliban has extinguished the security that women felt with the presence of the international community — that they could make the choice to educate themselves and their daughters, work, enter politics or open a business.
That choice is no more. Women who have worked in government and the media, in particular, say they now live in fear of retribution as the Taliban send gunmen to search for people who have spoken out against them in the past. At least one women’s rights advocate has disappeared from her home in the western city of Herat, sources there have said. Her whereabouts are unknown. “Most women who were working in government or for the international community, or in non-government organisations did so with an anti-Taliban mindset and now they fear revenge, not just against themselves but also against their families,” said Munera Yousufzada, Afghanistan’s former deputy defence minister.
As part of the post-2001 constitution, of the 249 seats in Afghanistan’s parliament, 68 were reserved for women to ensure their participation. Holding on to that mandate has been challenging enough over the past 20 years — some MPs had called for the number of women in the parliament to be cut. Now, it looks likely that behind public statements supporting women’s participation in politics, the Taliban are trying to intimidate women to drop their political activities. According to media reports, the homes of some women parliamentarians have been searched and their cars stolen by the Taliban.
Source: Evening Standard