Punished for speaking their mind, working with men, stoned for adultery and made to dress conservatively. This is not a description from a fictional account, but a harsh reality of what millions of girls and women have already started facing as the terrorist group Taliban take over majority of Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US troops from the nation.
When the fundamentalist group ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 they imposed Sharia law, a strict interpretation of Islamic law which meant women could not work, girls were banned from attending school and women had to cover their faces in public and always be accompanied by a male relative if they wanted to leave their homes.
The UN reported in July that civilian deaths in Afghanistan have risen by almost 50% since the beginning of 2021, with more women and children killed and wounded than in the first six months of any year since records began in 2009. Now, as the Taliban step closer to taking over power, or being part of the power arrangement in the country, here’s a look at the bleak future that awaits women amid the almost medieval functioning of the terrorist group.
Rules of the Taliban for Women:
• Women should not be seen on the street unattended without a blood relative or a burka.
• Since no man should hear a woman’s footsteps, high-heeled shoes should not be worn by women.
• A woman’s voice should not be heard by a stranger when she is speaking loudly in public.
• In order to prevent women from being seen from the street, all windows on the ground and first floors of residential buildings should be painted over or covered with a screen.
• Women are prohibited from having their pictures taken, filmed, or displayed in newspapers or books or in stores or at home.
• To remove the word “women" from any place names.
• Women are not allowed to appear on their balconies.
• Women are prohibited from appearing on radio, television, or in any public gathering.
Numerous reports have emerged of the Taliban going door-to-door, drafting lists of women and girls aged between 12 and 45 years who are then forced to marry Islamist fighters. Reports have also emerged that in recent days amid the takeover of many provincial capitals of Afghanistan, Taliban commanders have demanded that communities turn over unmarried women to become “wives” for their fighters — a form of sexual violence, according to human-rights groups.
Education, Ambitions Run to the Ground
As the Taliban shut schools and stop women from entering universities or their workplaces, untold damage has already been done to Afghan women who entered public life – including legislators and journalists as well as doctors and nurses, teachers and administrators. Even as they worked alongside male colleagues to help build a democratically run civil society, they hoped that their efforts would pave the way for future generations of women to succeed them. Among the many young women who fear that their education and ambitions will be in vain, Zahra, 26, is one of them. She watched as the Taliban flooded Herat, Afghanistan’s third-largest city, and hoisted their white flags emblazoned with an Islamic declaration of faith on Thursday evening. Zahra, who works for a non-profit organisation that promotes women’s rights, told the Associated Press, “I am in shock." As a woman who has worked hard and tried to learn and advance, how can I now be forced to hide and stay at home? A month ago, as the Taliban closed in, Zahra stopped going to work in the office and began working remotely from her home. But she has been unable to work since Thursday.
Women employees at two bank branches, one in Kandahar and the other in the city of Herat, were harassed and castigated by Taliban gunmen in July. The gunmen escorted the women to their homes and told them not to return to their jobs, which would go to male relatives instead.
“It’s really strange to not be allowed to get to work, but now this is what it is," Noor Khatera, a 43-year-old woman who had worked in the accounts department of the bank told Reuters. “I taught myself English and even learned how to operate a computer, but now I will have to look for a place where I can just work with more women around."
‘Can’t Step Out Without Male Relative, Wear Clothes of Your Choice’
According to Taliban rules, women cannot leave their home without a male escort, or freely choose the clothes they want to wear. Reports saya young woman was recently killed by the Taliban for wearing tight clothes and not being accompanied by a male relative in Afghanistan’s northern Balkh province. “The woman was shot dead in the village of Samar Qand, which is controlled by Taliban," a report by Radio Azadi said in Afghanistan. The 21-year-old victim was identified as Nazanin, and was attacked when she left her house and was about to board a vehicle for Mazar-e-Sharif, police said, adding that she was wearing a burqa (veil that covers the face and body) at the time of the attack.
During the rule of the Taliban, women who broke the rules sometimes suffered humiliation and public beatings by the Taliban’s religious police. The Taliban also carried out public executions, chopped off the hands of thieves and stoned women accused of adultery.
Here are some examples of the brutal punishments exacted by the Taliban on women:
• During the month of October 1996, a woman had the tip of her thumb cut off because she was wearing nail varnish on her fingers.
• According to Radio Shari’a, 225 Kabul women were detained and punished for violating the sharia code of dress in December of 1996. The women were whipped for their misdemeanour on their legs and backs.
• Members of the religious police forced five CARE International employees, who were authorised by the Interior Ministry to conduct research for an emergency feeding programme, from their vehicle in May 1997. A public address system was used by the guards to insult and harass the women before striking them with a 1.5-meter-long metal and leather whip.
• In 1999, an Afghan mother of seven children was executed for killing her husband in the Ghazi Sport stadium in front of 30,000 spectators. Prior to her execution, she was imprisoned for three years and tortured to the point of death, but she refused to plead guilty in order to protect her daughter (reportedly the actual culprit).
• An Afghan girl named Bibi Aisha was married off to another family through the tribal dispute-resolution process known as baad. When she escaped the violence she suffered in the family, a Taliban commander ordered that she be punished as an example “in case other girls in the village try to do the same thing". Her ears and nose were severed, and she was left for dead as punishment.