As the Taliban rapidly took control of Afghanistan over the past two weeks, including the capital, Kabul, concerns over the situation facing women in the country have been raised nationally and internationally. The Taliban is a radical Islamist and strictly patriarchal organisation which is known to have been dismissive of women’s rights in the recent past.
The history of the Taliban also indicates that, from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban governed Afghanistan and imposed a strict Sharia law where women were forced to wear the hijab and they were not allowed to study, work or even travel alone.
Now, with the Taliban centre stage and governing the country, they have stated that the country will be ruled under Sharia: women will be required to wear the hijab but women’s right to education and work will be protected. However, women’s rights activists and human rights defenders, citing some cases that have already reportedly taken place and having carefully assessed the Taliban’s initiatives over the decades, have expressed skepticism over the stated commitments of the Taliban government and movement. They have argued that, on a number of levels, the rights of women are and will remain insecure and under extreme threat.
MA spoke to a women’s rights activist who left the country before the Taliban regained power. Naija Ashfari is an Afghan women’s rights activist who immigrated to Europe because of the oppression she faced and experienced.
She warns that the statements coming from the Taliban concerning women’s rights being respected cannot be trusted. “The Taliban are this group of fundamentalist terrorists who do not want to give women human rights but see women as second-class citizens,” Ashfari noted.
“The experience in Afghanistan when they were in power: people must have seen how the young girls were treated.They didn’t allow the young girls to go to school, they didn’t allow the women in the streets. Women were not allowed to go outside without a burqa or chador or a man accompanying them. The women in Afghanistan who had this experience with the Taliban are never ready to live under the rule of these fundamentalists,” she stated.
Ashfari noted that many women within the country are trying to escape but since the borders are closed, many cannot make it. “At the moment, a large number of women are trying to leave this country, but unfortunately the borders of the neighbouring countries are closed and they have no chance to leave this country at the moment.”
She added: “People in this country, especially women, cannot accept these fundamentalists. Definitely not. Because the Taliban, who mostly come from Tora Bora, southern Afghanistan, do not share a similar culture, a similar mindset and language as the other cities in Afghanistan that they have taken control of.”
Ashfari also believes the Taliban cannot remain in power for long because there will be many women and men resisting against them. She emphasized the importance and significance of international solidarity: “As long as there is resistance, there are the strong women, women and men engaged in struggle, they cannot stay in control of our country for long. The people’s war is stronger than the war of the state. Internationally, the more we unite, the stronger we can get and fight against the Taliban. In this sense, international solidarity is very important. We’re one. This is a matter of humanity.”