Half a Year After Taliban Takeover of Afghanistan, Local Women Still Fear for Their Future

© AP Photo / Hussein MallaAn Afghan woman wearing a burka enters a tailor's shop in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022.
An Afghan woman wearing a burka enters a tailor's shop in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022. - Sputnik International, 1920, 15.02.2022
A Kabul-based activist says that since their seizure of power in August 2021, the Taliban* has banned women from educational institutions and the workforce, while killing, injuring, jailing, and torturing those against the new regime.
Last August, when the Taliban took over Afghanistan following the US withdrawal from the war-ravaged nation, Zahra Karimi, a local women's rights activist, was taken aback.
She says she was deeply "worried" about her people and the country's women, especially as the Taliban's first stint in power in the 1990s was still fresh in the memory of many Afghans. But she was still hopeful that the radical group that claimed it had become milder over the years would stick to its promises.

Promises Broken

Shortly after the Taliban takeover, the organisation established an all-male government, where women are still barred. They reinstated the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which uses a violent policing system.
They have also reportedly intimidated, threatened, and targeted minority groups in Afghanistan. They've prosecuted women, forcing them to wear burqas [full-face covers] and banning them from school and universities. They prohibited them from working at the presidential palace, ministries, and other governmental organisations.
"People are starving but the Taliban government doesn't care. There are hundreds of people wandering the streets, begging for work in the cold winter. Children are selling small objects to be able to buy food. Every now and then, civilians witness scenes on the street, when someone is being beaten up, being shot, or somebody's head being violently shaved in blood", Karimi explained.

Resisting the Evil?

At the beginning, says the activist, many of those who remained in Afghanistan were trying to resist.
Women gathered on the streets of the Afghan capital Kabul as well as other cities across the war-torn nation. Small pro-democracy groups dared to tear down the Taliban banner and replace it with the country's flag.
"When it became crystal clear that women are never going to have the same social status, or access to education, economic opportunities, and political participation, many started marching on the streets. Many still do but they are doing this in fear".
That fear stems from the Taliban's reaction. They cracked down on protesters, killed, injured, and jailed them. According to reports, hundreds of women have also been abducted and tortured. The media allegedly fails to report all those incidents fearing for its very existence.
That violent reaction, says Karimi, pushed many women to "stay at home and wait". Many have decided to surrender and adapt themselves to the changing realities of life in Afghanistan.
"Understanding the Taliban's extremist ideology, women decided to dress differently. Some put on a hijab [a head scarf], not a burqa and they are trying to continue their lives as normally as they possibly can".

Way Out

Looking at what the future might hold for Afghanistan, Karimi suggests that she is not optimistic. But she is hopeful that the situation can still be changed.
"There are two ways to end this oppression and violence", says the activist. "One is by supporting the National Resistence Front (NRF) that fights for freedom and stands against this cruel terror group. The other one is by advocating for another military intervention with a feminist foreign policy lens".
But the most important point, she claims, is to stay united, accept each other irrespective of ethnicity and religion and prevent the Taliban from spreading its ideology.
*The Taliban is an organisation under UN sanctions for terrorist activities.
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