Conflicts & War

In Afghanistan, women’s undying hope versus Taliban’s chronic repression

By Baber Khan Sahel

Madrid/Kabul, Aug 14 (EFE).- Afghan women persist in their struggle, battling against a tide of challenges while refusing to surrender hope as the Taliban mark their two-year anniversary in power.

Hasina, 18, and her sister Adila, 16, have been hopelessly watching the news daily to know if the Taliban have reversed their decision to bar girls from going to school.

With their hopes turning into despair daily, the Islamist regime has been steadily tightening its grip on Afghan women’s rights and freedoms, layer by brutal layer since they stormed to power in Kabul on August 15, 2021.

Afghan women say 20 years of progress made during pre-Islamist rule has been swiftly erased, leaving Afghan women grappling with severely restricted rights.

“These two years have been like a nightmare for me because of being kept away from school,” Hasina told EFE.

Hasina’s dream of becoming a teacher has been shattered by the Taliban order to close schools for girls, plunging Afghanistan back into a pre-2002 era of Islamist rule.

In late 2022, the two sisters began working as trainees at a beauty salon run by a neighbor from her residence.

But their hopes and of numerous other Afghan women were dashed again when the Taliban banned such parlors in July this year.

Their mother, Sakina, 40, living in a modest dwelling in Kabul’s Kart-e-Naw neighborhood, paints a grim picture of life under Taliban oppression.

“Our daughters are suffering. They have started taking anxiety and sleep disorder medications,” she lamented. “We feel powerless in safeguarding their basic rights.”

Denied education and livelihoods, Afghan women have borne the brunt of the Taliban’s medievalistic measures.

Restrictions have multiplied, with bans on visiting parks and gyms, decrees for full-body veils outside homes, and bans on solitary long journeys and working with nonprofit organizations.

Before the fall of the Western-backed government, girls constituted 39 percent of the 10 million enrolled students in Afghan schools, and women represented around 28 percent of government employees.

Now, only a small percentage of women are allowed to work in gender-segregated offices of the Taliban government.

The trials faced by Hasina, Adila, and their mother mirror the broader challenges confronting Afghan society under Taliban rule.

“Afghan women are currently going through the most difficult and unbearable conditions,” Zarlasht Mayar, who turned a rights activist after losing her job at the justice ministry, told EFE.

Mayar said the Taliban have “violently dismantled and suppressed” nearly all women’s rights movements.

She shared her bleak outlook for the Afghan women’s future. “I see little prospect of the current deplorable situation to improve.”

Taranom Seyedi, the head of the Afghan Women’s Political Participation Network, told EFE that any transformation will remain elusive until the Taliban sheds its perception of women “as sources of sin and corruption.”

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