Conflicts & War

No light at end of tunnel: Women losing rights fast under Taliban rule

Kabul, Apr 12 (EFE).- The Taliban’s return to power in August 2021 caused a certain disquiet among Afghan women, fearing that the rights gained over the last two decades during the Western-backed government would disappear again.

Progressive restrictions imposed on them by the Islamist regime during the last eight months have confirmed their worst fears.

The fundamentalists have stopped adolescent girls from going to schools, limited women’s movement, and segregated public spaces on a gender basis in their rigid interpretation of the Islamic code.

“Since the Taliban returned to power, they have systematically restricted (the rights of) women and girls, isolating them from society while promising human rights to the international community,” activist Arifa Fatimi told EFE.

In the previous Taliban regime, between 1996 and 2001, they confined women to their homes and prevented them from working, reducing them to second-class citizens.

This time, following the capture of Kabul on Aug.15, the fundamentalists promised a change.

But those were empty promises, said the activist behind several women’s protests.

“The orders of the Taliban government and its mentality toward women have not changed, they are the same as they were 25 years ago,” rued Fatimi, who sees pressure from the international community as the only solution to preserve their rights.

Around the end of March, the Taliban stopped the return of teenage girls to schools in Afghanistan.

The decision left millions of Afghan girls disappointed, sparking global criticism.

“Only one regime on the planet denies girls education,” the United Nations mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) remarked on Apr.5, 200 days after the closure of secondary schools.

In December last year, the Taliban’s Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice imposed a ban in Kabul on women moving without their heads covered in public and traveling without a male escort for long journeys.

The restriction was recently extended to international flights.

“Airlines have been ordered to stop women from flying unless (accompanied) by a family member,” an employee of one of the airlines in Afghanistan told EFE on condition of anonymity.

Nahid Noori, a woman activist, told EFE that the latest restriction serves as the final blow to Afghan women’s hopes of working, receiving medical treatment abroad, or receiving education.

“I studied for my bachelor’s degree in India and had decided to get a master’s degree in business management in another country, but I can’t go because of the restriction. Together with the economic and security problems that I am also faced with (…) this ban means a prison sentence,” said Noori.

The Taliban’s bans extend to other areas, including gender segregation in Kabul’s parks, where women and men can visit on different days.

Gender segregation applies to universities as well.

The fundamentalists have banned women’s sports.

Similar bans have also affected the realm of film and television, with the Taliban banning the broadcast of fictional programs featuring women.

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